reading matters, so let's make public library reader services awesome!

self-help bibliotherapy: possibilities part 1

Mood Boosting Books campaignReading Well Mood Boosting Books is a UK promotion of uplifting titles, including novels, poetry and non-fiction. The books have been recommended by readers. Reading Well is an initiative of The Reading Agency in the United Kingdom. Selection for the 2014 titles closed yesterday, with the list to be released in June. Discover the titles people suggest on Twitter with the hashtag #moodboosting.

Reading Well Mood Boosting book list
Macmillan Cancer Core book list

Christchurch City Libraries subject guide on grief

City of London’s Mood Boosting books promotion

Essex libraries book list on dementia (with links to the catalogue)

Norfolk County’s Mood Boosting books promotion (with other links to titles on grieving, cancer and dementia).

Read4Depression -a Melbourne Masters student’s investigation into books that help people with depression. Survey just closed at the end of March 2014.

At the centre of my interest in information and reader services and connection-based service is bibliotherapy. It is well established in the UK, has its pockets of practice in New Zealand, and is showing strength in Victoria and New South Wales through the efforts of Susan McLaine and the new National Bibliotherapy Association, and Shared Reading NSW. Bibliotherapy practice is a strong example of public libraries connecting people with information and each other that is recommended to become a standard practice in public libraries across Australia. We support early literacy development – our support of adult literacy development is also vitally important. Bibliotherapy fits as a way of meeting the national year of reading literacy goals.

Susan McLaine (2010) noted that there are three strands of bibliotherapeutic practice (that) can be identified internationally: self-help bibliotherapy, books on prescription schemes, and creative bibliotherapy.  (Bibliotherapy: Reading for Wellbeing in Old Age).

At our library, we have started work on a self-help bibliotherapy program, Connections, beginning with Cancer Wellness. We’ve had a positive response from the local Cancer Centre. Books and other resources are not unrelated objects taking up space on library shelves. Their content has the power to heal, to transform, and to enrich. We have started gathering recommended titles (including websites, apps, databases) on breast cancer and wellness, have attended an information session at a breast cancer seminar, and have taken recommendations from participants (survivors and support staff) with the objective of creating an online booklet with a select list of titles (with links to the catalogue) and links to launch later in the year. We have been invited to promote our program through the Cancer Centre, and this is the aim of Connections generally – to get the information out to the relevant community organisations so the library and librarians become known as information sources to people who may not have thought to go to the library. We can then use our expertise and our resources in targeted ways to support our community’s needs.

For self-help bibliotherapy, book collections represent a resource of appropriate titles for people with a broad range of conditions (including depression, anxiety, bereavement, eating disorders and physical illness). (Susan McLaine, 2012).

Lucy from Tolstoy Therapy (also @TolstoyTherapy)

“Tolstoy Therapy” meant the same to me back then as I’d define “bibliotherapy” now: the use of literature, in this case Tolstoy’s, to help me through difficult situations, feelings and thought processes and to allow me to appreciate the beauty of words and skilled writing.

and  LitTherapy   (also @Lit_TherapyWith the help of readers, bloggers and bibliotherapy supporters, LitTherapy will be the most valuable resource possible. While reading is in itself a great tool for wellbeing, sharing and discussing books can create powerful bonds to help us get through problems together. As we share books, we share our own stories. This results in acceptance, support and reassurance: factors that can’t be underestimated. (LitTherapy is) a bibliotherapy recommendation site I set up to help you find the right books for you.

Bibliotherapy will become a part of  essential services of public and school libraries. It reflects the strong convergence between the goals of bibliotherapy and other library services objectives, such as reader’s advisory.

Introducing bibliotherapy in public libraries for the development of health and social conditions of post-war community in Jaffna District – An exploratory study by S. Arulanantham and S. Navaneethakrishnan. (an IFLA report, 2013).

The Reading Agency in the UK is instrumental in the self-help bibliotherapy field. Their aims over the next four years are to:

  • change lives through our reading programmes
  • champion the role of public libraries
  • spread reading through new partnerships and channels
  • lead and develop innovative research on reading.

You could do a Mood Boosting books promotion in your community to support Mental Health Week in October, or The Reading Hour in August. Share here about what you are planning or have done with self-help bibliotherapy.

My #MoodBoosting recommendation: Tom Sharpe’s Porterhouse Blue! Before I discovered Terry Pratchett and Douglas Adams I laughed and laughed with Tom Sharpe’s oeuvre!

Tom Sharpe's Porterhouse Blue



Coming soon: creative or social bibliotherapy and prescriptive bibliotherapy.


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