The Brief

Engaging Libraries logoEngaging Libraries is looking for public libraries across the UK and Ireland that want to pilot creative and imaginative public engagement projects on health and wellbeing. Public libraries have a key role in delivering on health and wellbeing as outlined in national library strategies across the UK and Ireland and the Society of Chief Librarians’ Universal Health Offer. The programme is a partnership between the Wellcome Trust and Carnegie UK Trust and is the outcome of joint work between the Wellcome Trust and the Society of Chief Librarians.


The programme

Engaging Libraries offers:

  • £5,000 – £15,000 to deliver a public engagement project on a health or wellbeing theme. While most applications are expected to fall within this bracket, there is an opportunity to request up to £25,000 for more ambitious projects
  • A package of support from library and public engagement experts
  • Kick-starter day with the opportunity to share project ideas, get advice about public engagement and support to think about your evaluation. There will also be the chance to meet other projects.
  • An external evaluation to ensure learning and experience can be shared more widely.

We are aiming to support between 8 – 10 libraries and activities must be completed between October 2017 and October 2018.



Experimental and innovative projects are welcomed and activities can be playful or serious. The programme is intended to be a learning process for all involved, not just for participants, but for the Trusts and broader public library sector.


Programme Portfolio

The projects that will be participating in the Engaging Libraries programme are:

  • Release the Pressure”: Working with partners including Mental Fight Club, the City of London libraries will spark discussion on mental health through creating a mental wellbeing sanctuary featuring talks, film screenings and performance workshops, specifically targeted at males working in the City.
  • No Filter”: Working with partners including arts and education filmmaking charity Signals, the successful “No Filter” project aims to encourage children and young people to discuss stress, relaxation and mood, using vlogs, blogs and podcasts about their everyday lives, how they manage stress and how they improve their wellbeing as a starting point for conversations.
  • Empathy Day”: Empathy Day is an innovative collaboration between four library services will explore the concept of empathy and its relationship to wellbeing through public engagement. Essex Libraries, St. Helens Libraries, Libraries Unlimited in Devon and Sheffield Libraries, in partnership with EmpathyLab, will explore local wellbeing and empathy-linked issues. They will also run a series of workshops designed to support people’s emotional skills, culminating in a series of interactive experiences on Empathy Day in June 2018.
  • The Final Party – Celebrating Death through Celebrations of Life”: Redbridge Libraries’ project will spark conversation and discussion about death through a series of interactive events including ‘Death Cafes’, a commissioned animation titled Travelling Light created within the library, a one-day death festival inspired by Mexico’s ‘Day of the Dead’ festival and opportunities for recording final wishes.
  • Body, Image and Mind”: Working with artist Suman Kuar, BBC Big Painting Challenge Winner, Leeds Art Gallery and its Education Office, and Leeds Public Health, “Body, Image and Mind” aims to inspire discussion and debate about body image through holding workshops about changing perceptions of body image. The project will also celebrate diversity and promote self-acceptance, making a difference to peoples’ lives through boosting self-esteem and confidence.
  • Brainworks”: The “Brainworks” project aims to creatively engage both young and older generations using input from NHS Health Improvement specialists and scientists. The interactive programme will explore how our brains change, grow and develop, focusing on teen behaviour and the aging process, bringing all ages of the community together to discuss brain development.
  • Talking ‘Bout Teddies”: Working in partnership with the organisation connected baby, led by research scientist Dr. Suzanne Zeedyk (Honorary Fellow at the University of Dundee), the project will explore children’s biological need for comfort and reassurance. We instinctively know that teddies offer children comfort, and Dr Zeedyk uses that knowledge in her own work to explain how adults carry within them an ‘internal teddy bear’, which helps them cope with life’s stresses. It is this link between childhood experiences and adult health that gives the project a unique take on an important message for all of us, whatever our age. The project will include short films of children (and adults!) talking about their teddies, a Teddy Bears’ Picnic, and public lectures on the neuroscience of relationships will take place for those interested in the underlying science.
  • Great Minds!”: Libraries in Longton and Garstang will work with CAMHS and local schools to allow young people in isolated communities to take over libraries and curate their own festival which aims to boost mental wellbeing. It is hoped this collaboration and opportunity to engage with others will encourage discussion.
  • The Travelling Happiness Bar”: Working in partnership with ‘Bolton at Home’ and ‘Breakdown Bolton’ the project will deliver an interactive, travelling exhibit which will engage and challenge people to reflect on what they mean by wellbeing, sparking conversation and debate on this important topic. Alongside this public engagement, a ‘bartender’ will speak to people about ‘5 Ways to Wellbeing’ and members of the public will be encouraged to participate in community activities such as health walks, mindfulness classes and workshops using poetry or art workshops to spark creativity.
  • Comics and Cosplay; Caring for Young Minds”: This project will engage with young people through the arts to start conversations and enable exploration about mental health. Oldham libraries will host a themed ‘Comic Con’ and a series of creative workshops, with theatre performances, comic art and the creation of a graphic novel, to bring together local youth; celebrating their creativity and encouraging greater discussion and debate within the community.
  • Slipper Talk”: Torfaen library service will hold a festival to engage both young and older people in conversations about perceptions around the aging process, and more specifically, discussions about issues like arthritis and balance. It is hoped that by bringing both generations together in local schools, residential homes and shared reading groups, it will also foster greater respect and support.
  • Teddy Bears Picnic”: London Borough of Bexley Libraries’ “Teddy Bear Picnic” project aims to spark curiosity about healthy food at a young age by engaging with pre-school children and their parents through song, dance and poetry. Six libraries throughout the Borough will see children create songs and dances linked to themes of exercise and healthy eating to inspire discussions about what a healthy lifestyle means and to help tackle obesity.
  • Library Takeovers: Creating a Space for All”: “Library Takeovers” will begin with a series of takeover days where participants with learning disabilities will help run Somerset libraries and engage with staff and the public. Engagement will be furthered in a ‘Rebuild your library’ day, where people can use their experiences to create a ‘library within a library’ or a digital version for those who find this method more accessible. This will be led by an artist-facilitator from Creativity Works who will empower locals to develop and bring their ideas into fruition. Critically, the takeover will provide the starting point for wider public engagement on learning disability.
  • You Can’t Judge a Book by its Cover”: Working in partnership with University of East Anglia and the ‘Science, Art and Writing Trust’, Norfolk libraries will host workshops where users will create book covers for their own biographies. The activity is a tool to facilitate and encourage discussions on the impact of self-reflection on well-being and mental health. The workshops will be led by library staff, students at the University of East Anglia School of Psychology and an artist and writer.

Speak To

Georgina Bowyer

Jenny Peachey

Andy Wright

Applications have now closed

Public engagement involves creating an opportunity for people to consider, participate and debate ideas. It is two-way process, which may involve activities like participation, conversation, interaction and listening. It can take many forms but is often made up of projects, activities or events.


Applicant workshops:
9 and 10 May in London
18 May in Dunfermline
Applications open: 2 May
Applications close: 23 August




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