State Library Victoria and Public Libraries Victoria have collaborated extensively with various public library managers and staff from across the state to develop a strategic framework believed to be the first of its kind for public libraries globally. A dedicated working group was formed to consult with community groups, health organisations and the broader library sector through surveys and focus groups.
Libraries for Health and Wellbeing: A strategic framework for Victorian public libraries towards 2024 outlines the role and priorities for Victoria’s public libraries in supporting community health and wellbeing. It helps to provide solutions for how libraries can contribute to better health and wellbeing outcomes through programs, services and partnerships under three impact areas: social connection, mental wellbeing and physical health.
With an ageing population and increasing rates of mental illness and chronic disease, the need for this framework has never been greater. Research indicates being lonely and socially isolated can pose a bigger risk for premature death than smoking, and that one in six Australians are currently experiencing depression, anxiety or both, with one in eight currently experiencing high or very high psychological distress. Since the pandemic began, Victorian public library managers have reported significant increases in requests for support services from community members in distress.
“I have attended a variety of health-related events at my library, such as talks about diet and health, and yoga classes. The many online events held during lockdown also contributed greatly to my mental wellbeing” — community member
Libraries can play a critical role in improving some of the determinants of health (for example, socioeconomic status, employment, education, housing and access to technology) through programs and services that equip communities with the necessary skills, information and confidence needed to manage their own health and wellbeing. This is a core component of preventing injury and illness.