The Social Prescribing Library

Recognising that people’s health and wellbeing are determined mostly by a range of social, economic and environmental factors, social prescribing seeks to address people’s needs in a manner that looks at the whole person, whereby the support focusses on a person’s wellness and not just their illness or condition.

For social prescribing to be able to scale up and embed across communities, people need to be able to access support from a variety of settings and organisations and it should not just be limited to healthcare professionals. Public Libraries are already well positioned to take an active role in what Health Services label ‘social prescription’. Libraries are places of information, offering people free access to a wealth of resources that they often can’t find elsewhere, whether online, in print or in person. Libraries are connectors, ensuring community members have access to resources, opportunities, and capabilities to engage, contribute, use local services and connect with their communities.

There is great opportunity to raise the awareness of the role of libraries in the health service arena, and to identify the capabilities of libraries in encouraging self-care and self-management of personal health and well-being.

Campaspe Library Outreach Service have taken a strong position partnering with local health service providers and care agencies, raising awareness within our communities of the capabilities of libraries beyond the physical walls of the buildings, reaching out and supporting community members isolated by location, circumstance or choice. Our partnerships with local health providers have provided them with a new perception of where libraries fit in relation to the health service social determinants of health. Most importantly local health service providers now recognise that the social role of libraries is not as social workers but as information disseminators and connectors to community and recreational support.

Campaspe Library’s social prescription service has connected us with people who often would not consider the library as an applicable resource. Public libraries play a central role as a social place for their communities with most libraries having spaces for learning, creating, thinking, experiencing, and sharing. The Social Prescribing Library project has developed an overview of social prescribing with consideration of the capabilities of libraries in this space. Included are case study examples, further reading suggestions and relevant training suggestions. Also included is a toolkit for library services which outlines three levels of social prescribing implementation – Signposting; Activities and Programs; and Assertive Outreach.

This presentation will provide an insight into our social prescribing program, project and experiences with the intention of supporting libraries in realising their potential in the arena of social prescribing, and thus forging future libraries.

Nerida Dye

Community Outreach Coordinator, Campaspe Library Service

Author Bio

Nerida Dye has worked in the Library industry for over 25 years in varied capacities, including customer service, information technology, branch administration, and management. She has worked with the SLV Shared Leadership Program workgroup, and on the joint PLVN/SLV Research Report ‘Victorian

Public Libraries: Our future, our skills’, and was a member of the PLVN Executive Committee 2013/14.

Nerida has been working in Community Outreach with Campaspe Regional Library since January 2015 reaching out to and engaging those in need of outreach services at locations such as care facilities, hospitals, community groups and individual homes.

In March 2022 Nerida was awarded the Library Board of Victoria / State Library of Victoria 2021 Barrett Reid Scholarship. The scholarship enabled Nerida to evaluate and review the informal social prescribing arrangements that were in place at Campaspe Library, and by investigating other examples within Australia and internationally, apply these learnings to improve and broaden the program, and develop a multi-level toolkit for libraries who seek to take up opportunities in the social prescribing arena.