Interactive map showing libraries and ‘warm hubs’ helping residents in North Wales this winter
Richard Evans, local democracy reporter
Young families and the elderly are keeping warm this winter at North Wales libraries.
As gas and electricity prices rise and temperatures plummet, libraries are offering people a place to enjoy a hot drink and cake whilst keeping warm during the cost-of-living crisis.
And librarians say the number of people coming through the doors has steadily increased as many struggle to manage their rising utility bills.
The scheme, Croeso Cynnes, offers people a place to read, chat, or even play games across libraries in all six counties.
Helen Goddard is Conwy’s head of libraries, culture, and information.
“We are encouraging people to come and use our libraries this winter and spend time with us, use the libraries’ facilities, and keep warm,” said Helen.
“Libraries are warm, welcoming spaces at the heart of communities, and you don’t have to come into the library for any other reason than to just come and spend time there.
“Our libraries are already very welcoming and non-judgmental spaces. So all we’ve really done is try to promote them and make sure we know we are there for people this winter.
“We’ve also tried to provide a warm drink, a flapjack, or a biscuit, or a hot chocolate or cup of tea, so we’ve got a schedule across all ten libraries (in Conwy) when people can come in during specific times and have a hot drink and a snack at the same time as their visit.”
Drinks and snacks
Helen said the number of people visiting libraries had risen during the current cost-of-living crisis but said the council was careful not to cause stigma.
“We have had a lot of people coming in, but what we don’t want to do is single people out by doing headcounts because it is important that people feel that we are not observing them,” she said.
“Obviously we record the number of people coming into the building, and certainly we have seen an uptick in visitor numbers coming into the library spaces.
“Libraries are really bouncing back post-COVID, and we are starting to see the number of visitors going up because people are coming into the library spaces not just when we are offering hot drinks but generally.”
The scheme offers visitors access to libraries’ extensive collections of books and graphic novels, including titles that offer advice on family finances, cooking on a budget, and upcycling.
The libraries also have computers with internet access as well as newspapers and magazines.
Other activities taking place include staff-led ‘story time’ events, shared reading sessions, and games, including crafts, jigsaws, and even family boardgames.
“There has been a lot more people coming in, and they are spending longer at the libraries, a few hours,” said Helen.
“We are seeing families coming in. Because as well as the drinks and the snacks, we are providing Lego and boardgames and some card games.
“We are getting all age ranges. We are getting older people coming in who enjoy spending a bit of time catching up with friends. We’ve got families coming in with young children. We already offer quite a broad range of activities in the library space anyway.
She added: “We have story times for under-fives. We have shared reading groups. So It has been an opportunity for us to open up our arms and remind the community that we are there for everybody.”
Denbighshire County Council is also part of the scheme, together with Anglesey, Gwynedd, Flintshire, and Wrexham.
A Denbighshire spokesman commented: “Library staff have made tea and coffee making facilities available, and as well as putting on a very successful programme of author events – for example, 54 people enjoyed attending an afternoon author event with bestselling author Simon McCleave in Prestatyn Library – we have also provided access to jigsaws and games, such as chess.
“A regular group of people has also started attending a craft and chat session in Rhyl Library on Friday mornings.
“Groups that are delivering these hubs across the county have told us that the social aspect seems to be having the biggest impact on people, as well as a warm space.
“The ability to get together in the community with people they may not have seen since before the pandemic is supporting everyone’s wellbeing and is playing an important role in our communities regaining their networks in the post-COVID recovery phase.”
He added: “Denbighshire Voluntary Services Council and Denbighshire County Council will continue to develop the scheme, encourage more groups to sign up and use the opportunities these groups provide, to ensure people can access additional support, advice, and guidance.”
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