Reading Well: finding resources for a wellbeing collection

Emma Fitzpatrick, Serial and Digital Resources Co-ordinator and member of the Wellbeing Collection team at Senate House Library, explores the Reading Well book lists curated by The Reading Agency and explains how they can help you find books and resources for your collection.  

For libraries thinking of starting a wellbeing collection, it is not always clear where to begin looking for resources. Reading Well, a campaign from the Reading Agency, offers lists of books chosen by health professionals and people with lived experience of the conditions covered in the reading lists. They have curated five book lists, all freely available, focusing on the following topics: 

Reading Well for mental health 

Reading Well for young people 

Reading Well for children  

Reading Well for dementia 

Reading Well for long term conditions 

Reading Well poster: 'Find helpful reading at your local library'

Reading Well also provides lists of what they refer to as Mood-boosting Books. These lists are designed to promote reading for pleasure and relaxation. The lists are mostly made up of fiction, poetry and some non-fiction titles which readers found uplifting. The books on these lists are recommended by readers and reading groups.  

The Reading Well scheme is widely used by public libraries to offer support for people suffering from common physical and mental health problems. The books on these lists form part of the Books on Prescription service which allow GP to “prescribe” books to patients to help support their recover. Individuals can also discover these titles using the Reading Well website or by visiting their local library.   

There are many titles on the Reading Well book lists which would be of great help to university library users seeking support for their wellbeing. The lists are also a great source of information and a good starting point for any librarians thinking about starting a wellbeing collection or looking for ways to use their library’s existing collections to support the wellbeing of their users.  The Reading Agency has recently produced a helpful guide for colleges and universities looking to get involved in Reading Well.

Reading Agency poster: 'Books to help you feel better'

I am part of the team at Senate House Library who have been working for the last year to build a Wellbeing Collection to support our users. When we were searching for resources, we found the Reading Well lists extremely helpful. It was wonderful to have lists of books curated by health and wellbeing professionals and recommended by readers, which focus on many of the different physical and mental health difficulties that influence our overall sense of wellbeing. The lists really helped us to find themes to focus on and start building a successful collection.

I am pleased to say that we launched the SHL Wellbeing Collection in February 2020 and so far it has been very well received. We hope to continue growing the collection and exploring new ways to support wellbeing in the library over the next year.