Doorstep book deliveries and befriending phone calls for vulnerable residents shielding in Warwickshire get “outstanding” response

Vulnerable residents in Warwickshire who are currently ‘shielded’ from Covid-19 by isolating themselves have been “overwhelmed” by the support they have received from Warwickshire Libraries and Communities during the pandemic.

Contactless doorstep deliveries of books and regular befriending telephone calls are just two of the special services that have been developed for residents who are self-isolating.

It is still vitally important that those most vulnerable to the coronavirus protect themselves by shielding.

Appreciating that many residents would find it difficult to be on their own at home for such a long time, and with the usual Mobile Libraries not running, Warwickshire County Council has adapted its libraries service.

In April, staff began phoning residents who are alone at this time to ask whether they would be interested in the special services – and soon after began making doorstep deliveries and talking regularly on the phone to hundreds of grateful individuals.

“You are doing a grand job and I really appreciate everything that is being done for people who are self-isolating”, said one resident in Nuneaton & Bedworth borough who has signed up for the befriending calls and the Library Home Delivery Service.

Another resident in Rugby said they were “absolutely thrilled” to hear from County Council staff, commenting “what a great service you are offering.”

Behind the scenes, employees have been working hard to make sure the service is running smoothly.

They’ve been making up home delivery book bags, which can include books and audiobooks, for over 190 new shielding library service users, in addition to their existing housebound library service users – meaning books will have been delivered to over 450 people by the end of this week.

The book bags are delivered to residents’ doorsteps by library staff whose usual jobs are to drive the Mobile Library vans or drive between the county’s library buildings delivering and collecting stock.

When joining the service, people are asked a few questions about their tastes and interests so library staff know what books they might like and can then specially select them.

“Your call has come just at the right time,” said one Rugby resident, “I’m climbing the walls without having any books to read! Thank you so much.”

In addition to the doorstep book bags, the befriending telephone calls – where a member of staff rings residents for a chat to check how they are getting on – have also proved to be extremely popular.

The library service staff, who themselves are working from home, have called hundreds of people identified as vulnerable in Warwickshire, in addition to their existing housebound library service users, and almost 200 people are currently getting a regular befriending call at their request.

As well as checking in on them, the library staff members are happy a chat about the books that people have been reading and to suggest others. They are also able to give advice on other services that might help them.

“I’m very grateful to know that if anything happens to my son, who is supporting me at the moment, that there is back up and that I can call for help,” one Warwick district resident told staff over the phone.

Residents can also sign up to a weekly activities programme and receive an e-newsletter with information about online activities such as puzzles, a recommended book of the week, favourite reads, local studies, author or curator talks and links to web resources to help keep them connected.

Over the phone, library staff can also talk them through accessing and getting the best out of Warwickshire’s digital library service, which offers electronic books, audio books, digital magazines and newspapers.

A special YouTube video explaining how to use BorrowBox – the app for borrowing eBooks an eAudiobooks – has been made by staff and can be viewed here: www.youtube.com/watch?v=5Ch5GK61p-I

Thousands of eBooks, eNewspapers and eMagazines have been loaned and downloaded by people staying at home in Warwickshire, with overall downloads since lockdown began on 23rd March reaching almost 20,000.

Over 41,000 issues of eNewspapers were read in Warwickshire in April (compared to just over 32,000 in March) and over 7,600 eMagazines have been downloaded since the start of lockdown – a 20% increase.

Councillor Kam Kaur, Warwickshire County Council’s Portfolio Holder for Customer and Transformation, said: “The whole offer from our libraries service is about supporting the health and wellbeing of our residents – and the comments that we have received from people across the county that are receiving these special services speak for themselves.

“It’s wonderful to hear the messages of appreciation for our County Council staff, who themselves have had to quickly adapt by working from home or doing a different job role to usual, to meet the needs of our communities in Warwickshire.

“It’s so important that vulnerable individuals continue to protect themselves at home and by offering these services we hope that we are making this time – often without support from anyone else – easier to cope with and more enjoyable.”

“I really do appreciate the fabulous service you are offering people,” said one Warwick district resident. “We applaud the NHS but there are also so many people behind the scenes plodding along finding ways to help others – it really is marvellous!”

To access these special services, you need to be without support at this time and Warwickshire Libraries member – if you aren’t already a member, you can join by telephone or online.

If you are interested in receiving any of these services, or know someone who might be, please email: libraryenquiryteam@warwickshire.gov.uk or phone 0300 555 8171 and leave a message.

The special library services are part of an extended offer of support from Warwickshire County Council to those who are isolated and vulnerable at this time, which includes additional support such as advice, referrals to services, and help to get important items such as food and medicines.