"ONE person told us we had literally saved their life.”

That's the message from Bracknell Forest's libraries boss after it was revealed more than 300 people have registered to get books, DVDs and audiobooks delivered to their homes since libraries in the borough closed in January due to the national lockdown.

328 residents in Bracknell Forest who are over 70, having to shield, or are clinically extremely vulnerable, registered with the contact-free delivery scheme, council data shows.

Fiona Atkinson, Library Services Manager for Bracknell Forest, said: “When we first locked down in March last year, I realised that there were a lot of people who were very isolated although not technically housebound, especially elderly people living by themselves, so I thought about what we could do to help.

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Library workers. Images from Bracknell Forest Council

Library workers. Images from Bracknell Forest Council

"As a result, we expanded the Home Library Service to include vulnerable groups.

“We ran this service until August last year, but resumed it again since the beginning of January, and will continue offering it until the lockdown ends.

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“There is no doubt that the service makes a huge impact on older people’s lives, both in terms of their mental health, due to the beneficial effects of reading, but also in combating social isolation and loneliness.

"One person actually told us that we had literally saved their life.”

The service is an expansion from the library's original home delivery service, which delivered to less than 100 people before the pandemic who were unable to leave home.

Library workers. Images from Bracknell Forest Council

Library workers. Images from Bracknell Forest Council

Councillor John Harrison, Executive member for Culture, Delivery, and Public Protection, said: “The libraries do a lot of important stuff, as well as being a social centre.

"People meet up, meet their friends, have book clubs, and a lot of that isn’t going on at the moment - but one thing we can do is support those who are the most vulnerable in being able to borrow the books and keep them entertained.

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“It’s very sad we can’t open them at the moment, because a lot of these things involve gatherings of people and those are the very things to cause the virus to be transmitted.

"I would say for them to check out our website, because there are things they can do.”

Stock image of library books

Stock image of library books

Council data shows 5,135 people are currently shielding because of COVID-19 in Bracknell Forest.

For more information on the Home Delivery Service, visit https://www.bracknell-forest.gov.uk/libraries/home-library-service, or call 01344 423149/01344 776431.