Libraries - health and wellbeing

Reading Well Books on Prescription is a national scheme delivered by The Reading Agency in partnership with the Society of Chief Librarians, 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 four 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.

Shelf help

Reading Well for young people provides information and advice for 13 to 18 year olds. The book list contains information about issues like anxiety, stress and OCD, and difficult experiences like bullying and exams. The books have been chosen by young people and health experts.

Reading Well - young people's mental health 

Located in: Barrow, Carlisle, Grange over Sands, Kendal, Penrith, Whitehaven, Workington, Millom 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

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.


Cumbria Libraries are proud to introduce you to Headspace, the newest addition to our online resources. With your Cumbria Libraries membership you'll get FREE access to Headspace Plus, containing hundreds of guided meditations, sleep exercises, wind downs, bedtime sounds - with new meditations added every day.

Why meditate? 

Stress is a natural, physical response in our bodies, and when we feel under pressure, our bodies respond by releasing 'stress hormones'. 

Adrenaline was useful when we were hunters back in the Stone Age, and we suddenly encountered a dangerous predator, flooding our bodies with the Fight or Flight energy which would enable us to leg it or bop said predator on the nose. 

Cortisol, would increase our memory, and recall past examples of how we'd dealt with similar predators, whilst rapidly increasing our resistance to pain. 

In the present day, a little bit of stress can be useful in motivating us to study or deliver a presentation, but a flood of energy in the wrong moment can be extremely upsetting, and problematic if it becomes a regular thing. If you think you are suffering with serious stress or anxiety, your first point of contact should be your GP. 

Mediation has also shown to help counter the "stress response". Through mediation, we can learn to be 'in the moment' and recognise those thoughts that trigger the response, as well as identifying the pathways to avoid falling into 'the trap' again.