Northumberland library staff launch befriending service during the coronavirus lockdown

Library staff in Northumberland have been providing a new service during the coronavirus lockdown – calling older people for a chat to check on them.

By Ben O'Connell
Friday, 15th May 2020, 7:00 am
Updated Friday, 15th May 2020, 11:20 am
Coun Cath Homer, Northumberland County Council’s cabinet member for library services.
Coun Cath Homer, Northumberland County Council’s cabinet member for library services.

Northumberland County Council’s library service is running a befriending service for regular, elderly customers, who are currently shielding during the Covid-19 outbreak, to ensure they don’t become isolated and lonely.

Having identified 3,800 customers aged 70-plus who have been regular visitors to a library this year, staff will call them all at least once to check how they are getting on and if there is anything they can do to help them, including support on accessing digital resources if they have a device.

They will chat to them about books they have been reading and suggest others they might like, while also signposting people to other services which can help.

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For those who are particularly isolated, staff will make more frequent calls for a friendly chat. The service is also seeking to offer limited doorstep deliveries of books to some of its most isolated customers.

Coun Cath Homer, the cabinet member for library services at the council, said: “We know for many people that their local library is part of their everyday social life. For many, it is often the only time in their day they have more than a transactional conversation.

“We wanted to help those customers who are missing having that regular conversation over a shared love of books.

“The response from everyone we have contacted so far has been heart-warming with many thanking staff for going the extra mile to make sure they are coping.

“We have managed to support a number of customers to get online, including two blind customers who are now able to enjoy e-audiobooks from the comfort of their own home.”

The library service offers hundreds of books, audiobooks and magazines online, while you can currently also research your family history for free with Ancestry at home and Find my Past. Visit www.mylibrary.co.uk

People in need of support can contact the Northumberland Communities Together team on 01670 620015 (9am to 6pm, seven days a week) or [email protected]

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