Libraries - health and wellbeing

Reading Well Books on Prescription is a national scheme delivered by The Reading Agency in partnership with Libraries Connected, endorsed by professional health bodies.

Reading Well Books on Prescription helps people to understand and manage their health and wellbeing using self-help reading.

Books can be recommended by GPs or other health professionals from the relevant Reading Well list, though people can also choose a book from their local library without a professional recommendation. The books can be borrowed and requested free of charge.

There are five Reading Well collections:

 Mental Health

Reading Well for mental health provides information to help people understand and manage their health and wellbeing through self-help reading. The books cover common mental health conditions including anxiety, depression, phobias and some eating disorders.

Reading Well - books on prescription 

Located in: Ambleside, Barrow, Carlisle, Grange, Kendal, Keswick, Kirkby Lonsdale, Maryport, Millom, Penrith, Roose, Ulverston, Walney, Whitehaven, Wigton, Windermere and Workington libraries.

Reading well for children

Reading Well for children recommends reading to help children understand their feelings and worries and cope with tough times.  The books have been chosen by children, carers, health experts and librarians.  The booklist is targeted at children in Key Stage 2 (aged 7 to 11) and includes a wide range of reading levels to support less confident readers and to encourage children to read together with their siblings and carers.

Reading Well for children

Located in:  Barrow, Carlisle, Kendal, Penrith, Whitehaven and Workington libraries.

Reading Well Teens

Reading Well for teens supports the mental health and wellbeing of teenagers (13-18), providing helpful information, advice and support to help them better understand their feelings, handle difficult experiences and boost confidence. The booklist includes a range of reading levels and formats to support less confident readers and encourage engagement. Some of the books suggest useful self-help techniques; there are also personal stories, graphic formats, and fiction. The books have all been chosen by young people and health experts.

Reading Well - young people's mental health

Located in: Barrow, Carlisle, Kendal, Penrith, Whitehaven, Workington libraries

Reading well - dementia

Reading Well for dementia provides help and support for people with dementia, carers of people with dementia and anyone who would like to find out more about the condition or is worried about symptoms.

The booklist is divided into four categories: information and advice; living well with dementia; support for relatives and carers; and personal stories.

Reading Well - Dementia 

Located in: Barrow, Carlisle, Cockermouth, Grange-over-Sands, Kendal, Keswick, Maryport, Penrith, Ulverston, Whitehaven, Workington libraries

Reading well for long term conditions

Reading Well for long term conditions provides people living with long term conditions and their carers with expert endorsed health information and self-management support.

The book list covers general information on living well with a long term condition, titles on specific conditions (diabetes, arthritis, Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD), asthma, heart disease, bowel conditions and stroke), symptom-based titles (mental health  and wellbeing related to living with a long term condition, sleeping difficulties, fatigue and pain management) and  titles for family and carers.

Reading Well - long term conditions

Located in: Barrow, Carlisle, Kendal, Penrith, Whitehaven, Workington libraries

Cumbria Library Service is now pleased to offer Reading Well loan boxes as part of a new scheme called:

Sun Book LogoHelp Yourself to Mental Health is a new initiative from Cumbria Libraries which aims to make our Reading Well mental health collections as widely available as possible.

Community groups and local organisations across Cumbria can now borrow a range of specially developed loan boxes containing a wide selection of books on a variety of mental health-related topics.  The boxes are free of charge and can be borrowed for up to 12 months.

There are four types of loan box - one for children, one aimed at teenagers and two that are geared towards adults. The books are all chosen from the main Reading Well collections and provide the same essential information for managing common mental health conditions or for dealing with difficult feelings and experiences.

Any community group or organisation in Cumbria is welcome to borrow a box (up to four at a time). Whether you are a nursery or playschool, sports team or youth club, community centre or village hall, GP surgery or health centre, all we ask is that the books are made freely available in your venue for anyone who wishes to borrow them. Borrowers do not have to have a library card or even be library members.

For more information contact

Loan box

In addition to the Reading well collections, Cumbria Library Service also offers the following:


The Macmillan Cancer Information Library Project is a joint venture between Macmillan Cancer Support, North Cumbria NHS Trust and Cumbria County Council's library service, to make information about cancer more widely available to the public.

The project libraries have dedicated shelving and leaflet holders and a wide range of free Macmillan leaflets to take away, as well as library books on cancer awareness, and titles which offer advice on diet, lifestyle, and mental attitude as well as practical information and guidance on living with cancer.

Some of the libraries also offer drop-in sessions staffed by trained Macmillan information and support volunteers. (The project has been made possible thanks to a grant from Macmillan.)

The 19 Macmillan project libraries are: Alston (leaflets only), Barrow, Carlisle, Cleator Moor, Dalton, Grange-over-Sands, Kendal, Keswick (leaflets only), Kirkby Lonsdale, Maryport, Millom, Penrith, Roose, Ulverston, Walney, Whitehaven, Wigton, Windermere, Workington.

Reading well - autism

Cumbria Libraries was the first library service in the country to work with the National Autistic Society to offer a specialist collection of books and DVDs about the condition. The collections are entitled, 'Autism? Your questions answered'

All of the books and DVDs can be requested via any library in Cumbria and they are open to everyone. The aim is to provide information about autism and things that might help those living with the condition. The titles within the collections are there because they are highly recommended as being the best available - recommended not only by experts and professionals- but by individuals and families with first-hand experience of Autism who read them and found them to be useful, practical, helpful and relevant.

Located in: Barrow, Carlisle, Kendal, Millom, Penrith, Whitehaven, Workington libraries

Dementia resource bags

Research has shown that taking part in activities based on the interests and abilities of a person with dementia can significantly improve their well-being and quality of life. We now have a number of Dementia Resource Bags available for loan, and these are aimed for use at home with individuals/family members affected by dementia, to promote reminiscence or discussions. Each of the 6 main libraries in Cumbria has a of themed bags which include topics such as 'Gardening', 'Growing Up' 'Holidays', 'The Royals', 'Local Sports' and 'School Days'.

The bags are located in Barrow, Carlisle, Kendal, Penrith, Whitehaven, Workington libraries, but can be requested, and borrowed, for up to three weeks at a time, free of charge, from any library in Cumbria.