Top award for Norfolk Libraries’ countywide health initiative

Photo of Norfolk library service receiving thier award from Award Chair of Judges John Vincent
  • Library service works with Public Health to encourage healthy living and target local health issues
  • Libraries host nutritious neighbourhood lunches, fall prevention slipper swaps, hula hooping and a pedal power smoothie bike

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The Library and Information Service at Norfolk County Council has won the prestigious Libraries Change Lives Award from CILIP for its ‘Healthy Libraries’ initiative; a countywide programme promoting healthy living and targeting the county’s most serious health priorities across the Norfolk library network.

Norfolk’s library service and two finalists, Sefton Libraries and Renfrewshire Library Service, were recognised at Leeds City Museum on Thursday 29 September. A £4000 prize to support the work has been awarded to Norfolk Libraries by CILIP.

Working in partnership with Norfolk Public Health, the Healthy Libraries initiative is delivered across Norfolk’s forty seven libraries. Socially-based group wellbeing activities include a monthly wellbeing or nutrition themed ‘neighbourhood lunch’ and adult colour-me-calm sessions. Exercise based activity has included hula hoop challenges and a pedal-powered smoothie bike, used to raise awareness of the benefits of the government-recommended target of five a day fruit and vegetable portions. Practical sessions include slipper swaps to prevent and reduce falls among the elderly.

Councillor Margaret Dewsbury, Chairman of the Communities Committee at Norfolk County Council, said:

Congratulations to my wonderfully committed and hard-working colleagues in libraries and public health who are making a positive difference to the lives of people right across Norfolk. We want everyone to live well and for longer. People are not alone in achieving their goals – we’re here to help by providing information and support at their local library, at the heart of their community, so people can make healthier choices, not just for themselves but for their whole family.”

Chair of Judges, John Vincent said:

“What’s really striking is the flexibility of the library service and its capacity to contribute to the local health strategy and extend public health awareness in a way that works for the community, with this work embedded in every single library. Norfolk Council and Norfolk Public Health are making sensible use of the unique strengths of the library service, including unmatched community reach, a trusted and accessible environment for a wide range of activities, and a highly trained workforce who can work in partnership to deliver real change across the county.”

Norfolk library staff have been trained to understand health improvement and mental health first aid and to offer information, advice and guidance on local health services including signposting relevant local health projects.  As well as actively promoting health and nutrition, the service is helping to target the county’s key health challenges including obesity, early years’ health and falls among the elderly, which currently cost local Public Health an estimated £19 million every year. Between May 2015 and April 2016, over two thousand Norfolk residents participated in a dedicated health-based activity under the programme.

Libraries Change Lives is the annual award for best practice in UK library services. Over 24 years, it has recognised a number of targeted initiatives around health and wellbeing, including bibliotherapy and services designed to support local populations dealing with dementia, autism, visual impairment, domestic abuse and mental health issues. Health is one of the public library Universal Offers, five key areas of service in which UK public libraries are committed to quality provision and promotion.

Ongoing initiatives include Bookstart, the Government-backed scheme first piloted by Birmingham Libraries which now reaches 3 million babies and their parents across the UK, and The City of Edinburgh’s HMP Edinburgh Library Partnership; an initiative that has transformed engagement among the prison population, tackling social exclusion and providing education and employment opportunities for a better transition to community life.


Press contact

Cat Cooper
Camapigns and Communications Manager, CILIP
Tel: 020 7255 0653
Mobile: 07867 455070

Notes to editors

CILIP: the Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals is the leading professional body for librarians, information specialists and knowledge managers. CILIP’s vision is a fair and economically prosperous society underpinned by literacy, access to information and the transfer of knowledge. CILIP is a registered charity, no. 313014.

The CILIP Community, Diversity and Equality Group work towards development of a diverse library and information workforce; one that supports communities to achieve sustainable needs-based services.

The 2016 Libraries Change Lives Award shortlist

Healthy Libraries, Norfolk – an initiative to develop all of Norfolk’s libraries into health and wellbeing ‘hubs’, promoting healthier living to the Norfolk population. Building on the existing universal health offer of UK public libraries, Norfolk’s 47 libraries are now actively promoting public health, with staff trained in understanding health improvement and mental health first aid to offer information, advice and guidance on local health services including signposting suitable local health projects.

Almost two thirds (65.7%) of the adult population of Norfolk are overweight or obese and instances are increasing among the child population of Norfolk, who have one of the lowest levels of childhood activity in the East of England (49.7%). An estimated 16,400 people in Norfolk have dementia (diagnosed or undiagnosed) and the recorded annual number of strokes is very high. Norfolk’s population has an older age profile than England as a whole and falls are estimated to cost Norfolk and Waveney health and social care services around £19 million every year, not including unknown costs such as GP time treating people who have fallen.1

Skoobmobile, Renfrewshire– this mobile library outreach service travels to schools, nurseries and community events where children up to twelve and their families are gathered. It is equipped to promote reading and play combined, stocking a broad range of children’s books and providing flexible space to house a range of activities based around play, activity and exercise.

Lost Voices, Sefton – a library project which goes out into the community to record the oral histories of local people in the early stages of memory loss, in their homes and care homes. The material forms part of Sefton’s oral and local history collections, and the recordings are provided to the subjects and their families as a reminiscence tool to help slow progression of the condition.


Photograph by Sam Atkins, original cropped and resized. 

l to r: Norfolk Library County Council LIbrary and Information Service staff Kymm Lucas, Great Yarmouth Library Manager, Alison Rainton, Service Support Librarian for Adults and Sarah Hassan, Assistant Head of Service, with John Vincent, Libraries Change Lives Award Chair of Judges.


[1]Norfolk Public Health. 2014. Health Needs Assessment – Falls Prevention in Norfolk.

Norfolk Public Health. 2014. Health Needs Assessment – Stroke or Transient Ischaemic Attack (TIA).

Norfolk Public Health. 2014. Living in Norfolk with Dementia: A Health and Wellbeing Needs

Assessment. Norfolk Public Health. 2015. Tackling Obesity – A Health Needs Assessment for Norfolk.