Libraries Connected, the independent charity representing public libraries, has outlined how libraries plan to help those struggling with household bills this winter. But it warned that without additional funding they may not be able to cope with demand.
A snapshot survey of over 50 library leaders, carried out by Libraries Connected this month, revealed that nearly 60% are actively considering taking part in a “warm bank” scheme, with many hoping to provide additional support such as hot drinks and advice on managing bills. Almost half (47%) plan to work with local partners such as churches, charities and community groups to support the vulnerable.
Only 4% of library leaders expect to receive any extra funding for this activity, however. That makes it uncertain if, or for how long, they will be able to provide it.
The results of the survey are presented in the charity’s new briefing note Supporting the vulnerable this winter. The survey also found that:
- 88% of library services plan to signpost vulnerable users to charities and other council departments
- 76% plan to offer advice and information on reducing household bills, saving energy and tackling debt
- 61% plan to provide additional activities such as games and crafts to keep people amused for long periods of time
- 43% plan to serve hot drinks
- 39% plan to install extra desks and comfortable chairs for those using libraries to keep warm
Libraries Connected has called for dedicated funding for the whole winter so that library services can provide targeted help to those most in need.
Isobel Hunter MBE, chief executive of Libraries Connected, said:
We know that libraries are determined to support people through the difficult months ahead, but without additional resources the number they can help will be severely restricted. And it will be difficult, if not impossible, for them to plan a programme of support for the whole winter.
Libraries are warm, free and accessible spaces, located in our town centres, high streets and villages. As such they are ideally placed to help those most affected by the cost-of-living crisis this winter, whether that’s with a cuppa, a good book and a comfy chair or specialist debt advice.
A relatively small investment across the library network could have a huge impact, allowing libraries to use their local knowledge and connections to provide targeted support at this critical time.