Most libraries are once again providing a warm place for those in need across the UK this winter. According to British research, more than half a million people visited such warm spaces in cultural venues last winter. The research, which covered 57 libraries, was carried out by Libraries Connected, England, Wales, Northern Ireland and the Crown Dependencies. (Like the bailiffs in the Channel Islands or the Isle of Man in the Irish Sea – Ed.) Performed by a charitable organization whose services it represents.
Index has now reached out to the charity Libraries Connected. We were curious to know exactly
- Who is the program for?
- how long
- Are there people who take advantage of the opportunity?
James Gray, marketing director at Libraries Connected, told our newspaper that public libraries in the UK have long been welcoming everyone, including homeless people.
You can use the libraries for free, the staff do not judge, they are proud and happy to provide support to even the most vulnerable groups. In our experience, it is very rare for someone to abuse this support.
Gray also said they don’t expect visitor numbers to drop when energy prices return to normal. “We find that people use the hot tubs for many reasons, including meeting friends and having fun. We also hope that people who visit the library to warm up will see all the other offerings and come back.”
What is the situation in Hungary?
We have also contacted Hungarian libraries about this topic. The Central Library of the capital’s Ervin Szabó Library and its network of member libraries, with the support of the Metropolitan Municipality, are waiting for readers, users and visitors with continuous service during the last heating season – informed the secretariat of the institution Fihris.
People who had problems with home heating and lighting also attended. The library was also a warm and welcoming place. Many of them later became members of the library as a result.
Three smaller libraries were an exception, as they operated in cultural centers that were closed at the time.
The situation is the same this year: our libraries await readers and those who want to warm up in full opening hours, with a wide range of diverse services and programs. Appropriate conservation measures are still in place, we heat to 20°C and pay attention to lighting.
Anyone can sit from morning to night
According to Katalin Csakony Jakov, director of the Ferenc Verseghe Library in Szolnok, the unique thing about this initiative is that it draws attention to an essential public service that also works in Hungary through a large national campaign. Libraries provide space, community events, fellowship, entertainment, learning and recreation.
Hungary also has everything the UK has, but there will be a real need for a more effective national campaign drawing attention to this. The library contains not only books and newspapers, but also countless other free services.
The library in Zolnok offers children’s activities, board game days, a quiz day for teenagers and a chess club. “What makes us different is that we do not provide hot drinks, blankets, or menstrual and sanitary supplies. If there was a project aimed at this, we would be partners in it as well. But there is currently no financial or human capacity for that.”
As for the target audience, according to the director, everyone is welcome, because this is the reason why the state and local governments maintain institutions, and it is a legal obligation. He added: “Accordingly, all public libraries in the country provide all citizens with the opportunity to spend their days in the library grounds.
Anyone can sit from morning to evening, absolutely free.
And not just those who want to read
Laurent Bela Kovacs, director of the Peter Milius Juhasz Library in Debrecen, thinks the initiative is a great idea, although he personally sees mainly marketing value in it. “Libraries in our country have performed a similar social function, as they are open to everyone with air-conditioned rooms in the heat of summer and heated spaces in the cold of winter.
And not just for those who want to read, but as a community space for everyone. In the event of a heat alarm, for example, local governments regularly order the opening of our air-conditioned buildings to all vulnerable people.
The director of the library in Debrecen added: “Just as the majority of British libraries host entertainment and cultural programmes, for example, you can socialize and practice yoga, and there are even craft clubs,” so the same can be said about libraries. In Debrecen.