Libraries open their doors to support local residents this winter

    Libraries in Devon are throwing their doors open in welcome this winter, to provide a range of help, support, advice and comfort to people who may be struggling, or beginning to struggle with the rising cost of living.

    The ‘Libraries for Life’ campaign, run by Libraries Unlimited, will carry right through until March 2023, and will cover six topical themes, including the rising cost of living; loneliness and community connections; food, health and wellbeing; digital access and support; and employment, skills and business.

    Libraries across Devon and Torbay will provide warm welcoming spaces, where people are welcome to join and spend time in the library, and to use the free WiFi and computers if they wish to. There are many free events and groups that people can attend, and some libraries will be hosting sessions providing help and advice about energy efficiency, debt advice and other topical subjects.

    In Tavistock, Tiverton and Exeter libraries, with more libraries to follow, there are community fridge projects operating, that make surplus food from local supermarkets available to all for free. Those libraries are working with Sustainable Tiverton, Live West in Tavistock, and the community fridge in Exeter is partly funded by the Community Fund.

    Coat rails in the Barnstaple, Ilfracombe, Exmouth, Totnes, Bideford, Ivybridge, Sidmouth, Seaton, Exeter and Tiverton libraries, introduced in partnership with IKEA, Willmott Dixon and Julian House, are installed for people to donate warm winter coats, for vulnerable people. Other libraries are collecting donated clothing.

    Otherwise, libraries are continuing to provide a home library service, for people who are housebound or who struggle to get to their library.  Contact your local library or email home.library@librariesunlimited.org.uk for more information.

    Free baby weighing facilities are available at libraries in Ottery St Mary, Totnes, Ivybridge, Tavistock, Teignmouth, Ilfracombe, Barnstaple, Exeter (St Thomas), Dawlish, Okehampton, Newton Abbot, Cullompton, Tiverton and Exmouth.

    Libraries also provide a selection of Reading Well books, to support good mental and physical health, for children, teens and adults.

    Most libraries provide free drop-in IT sessions, and Newton Abbot Library is also hosting Barclays once a week, to offer a free Digital Wings Programme to boost digital skills and confidence.

    There are work clubs operating in Bideford, Barnstaple, Exeter, Newton Abbot, Crediton, Cullompton, Tiverton and Tavistock libraries, offering one-to-one support with CV writing, developing skills and applying for jobs.

    And there are webinars and one-to-one coaching and advice for budding entrepreneurs and local start-up businesses, at Business and IP Centres in Barnstaple and Exeter libraries.

    Libraries are also always looking for volunteers, which is a great way to meet new people and support your local community this winter.

    Councillor Roger Croad, our Cabinet Member responsible for libraries, said:

    “Our libraries have long been more than just buildings with books and CDs – they are centres within the hearts of communities that provide a range of help and support for their visitors. 

    “I’m very pleased, as we’re approaching winter, and with food and energy costs rising, that many libraries are able still, despite rising costs also impacting on them, to continue to deliver support for local residents.”

    Colin Bray, Service Development Manager, who’s organised the campaign, said:

    “Across all our libraries there are friendly staff on hand to assist and chat to customers and new visitors. We pride ourselves on the fact our libraries are safe, accessible, and welcoming spaces for people of all ages to enjoy. 

    “All signs point to this being a difficult winter for many people. There is economic hardship ahead, coming off the back of the recovery from the challenges wrought by coronavirus. Our customers will be dealing with an increased cost of living including heating bills, transport, and food this winter.

    “We want them to know libraries can help. We can keep them warm, give them food, help them find a job, boost their business, offer companionship and a place to explore interests, and help them get online. And all of that is before they even borrow a book!

    “We regularly hear people say, ‘I didn’t know you did so much’! This winter we want to showcase all that we do to enrich lives and build communities around Devon and Torbay.”

    Full details of events and initiatives at individual libraries are available online at librariesunlimited.org.uk or by visiting your local library.

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