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Norfolk Library Service reaching out to Older People

With a new Reading Well library scheme proving popular with Norfolk patients, Emma Outten looks at the ways in which the Norfolk Library and Information Service can help elderly patients, carers and relatives alike. 


Is your elderly parent trying to rebuild his or her life following a stroke? Or do they live with chronic pain? Then you might be interested to know that a new Norfolk library scheme is providing information and support for people living with a long term health condition – as well as their carers. 

Reading Well for Long Term Conditions launched this summer across Norfolk’s 47 libraries and eight mobile libraries and includes a list of 28 recommended books which can be borrowed for free for up to six weeks. In the first few weeks since the list was launched, more than 276 copies of the books were issued across Norfolk, and the most borrowed book from the list so far is: 

  • How I Rescued My Brain: a psychologist’s remarkable recovery from stroke and trauma, by David Rowland.  

Books on pain management, Crohn’s disease and irritable bowel syndrome also top the loans list, although it also includes books relating to fatigue; sleep problems; mental health and wellbeing; arthritis; breathing difficulties; diabetes and heart disease. The books are free to reserve and borrow and are ideal for patients, carers and relatives – in fact, books providing specific support for relatives and carers include:  

  • The Carer’s Handbook: Essential Information and Support for All Those in a Caring Role, by Jane Matthews 
  • The Selfish Pig’s Guide to Caring: How to Cope with the Emotional and Practical Aspects of Caring for Someone, by Hugh Marriott.  

Books can be reserved from your local library by visiting the Norfolk Council website 

The Reading Well for Long Term Conditions is part of the successful national Reading Well Books on Prescription scheme, which recommends reading lists on specific topics relating to health, including dementia. Visit Reading Agency for more information. 


If your elderly parent’s mobility is severely restricted due to ill health or disability, or if you are a full time carer without anyone to visit the library for you, there’s also something called the Home Library Service, a partnership between the Royal Voluntary Service and Norfolk County Council’s Library and Information Service, which offers books and audio books delivered directly to the home.  

As Caroline Varney-Bowers, Community Librarian at The Millennium Library in Norwich, explains: ‘People can use the Home Library Service if they have health conditions which restrict their mobility and prevent them from getting to a library or mobile library – this can include physical or mental health conditions. The service can also be accessed on a temporary basis if someone is going through a period of illness, after a hospital stay or due to bad weather. The service can also be accessed by carers who find their own social mobility is restricted by caring duties.’   

The Home Library Service is overseen by a manager who works with individual libraries in Norfolk to establish the service at each library and to recruit, train and manage the volunteers. 

Within each library, volunteers will have a ‘round’ of customers (a maximum of 15) – volunteers will make contact with each new customer to create a profile for the types of books they like and any specific requests. Library staff will collect together, suitable books for each customer (the customer’s library account can be checked by library staff to prevent sending the same book multiple times). The selected books are put into individual boxes and volunteers come to the library at the start of their round to collect the boxes of books for the customers. 

A Home Library Service customer can borrow up to 50 items at once but these exclude music, DVD and reference material. The items can be borrowed for up to 12 weeks and charges for overdue books and reservations are waived. 

Caroline adds: ‘During a visit the volunteer will discuss the book selection and note any requests to pass on to library staff – they will also inform the customer of their next visit. Volunteers will also keep an eye on the welfare of the customer and are encouraged to refer them to the Home Shield Service if they feel this is needed.’ 

If you would like to use the Home Library Service please contact 01603 397998, or email 

Dereham Library, specifically, has new volunteers and so is now able to invite more people onto the service. Contact on 01362 693184 or email  


So are you, or is mum or dad, a bookworm? Recommended reads for the autumn include: 

  • Dadland – Keggie Carew  
  • Vinegar Girl – Anne Tyler 
  • The Woman in Cabin 10 – Ruth Ware  
  • The Gustav Sonata – Rose Tremain  
  • The Stopped Heart – Julie Myerson  
  • When Breath Becomes Air – Paul Kalanithi  

Alternatively, you could try  


If communication with your elderly parent is becoming increasingly difficult, did you also know that thereis a wide selection of Reminiscence Kits and Packs available through Norfolk Libraries? There are a variety of themes: anything from ‘domestic life’ through to a scent kit containing 14 evocative scents. The Reminiscence Collection can be used to share memories with mum or dad, as well as to provide emotional and social stimulation.

Also available are a ‘Pictures to Share’ series of books, which have been produced specifically for use with people with dementia and include one specifically on The Seaside; Robert Opie’s series of scrapbooks (including the 1950s scrapbook); Chatterbox 1940s and 1950s reminiscing conversation cards; and Linda McAllister’s series of ‘Talkabout’ books, including one on hobbies. Reserve online at Norfolk Libraries

You might be interested in attending the Time Travellers session at the Millennium Library for more information visit our page Time Travel in Norwich

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