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What is the potential of public libraries to promote public mental health & wellbeing? Findings from a cross-sectional study of community-dwelling adults
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  • Manisha Karki,
  • Austen El-Osta,
  • Marie El Asmar,
  • Eva Riboli Sasco,
  • Priya Loombia,
  • David Harland,
  • Richard Neville
Manisha Karki
Imperial College London

Corresponding Author:[email protected]

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Austen El-Osta
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Marie El Asmar
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Eva Riboli Sasco
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Priya Loombia
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David Harland
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Richard Neville
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The role of public libraries has changed significantly over the last few decades, but they remain popular and are increasingly well-positioned to support the mental health and wellbeing needs of members of the community. We conducted a cross-sectional online survey and interview-based study with community-dwelling adults to explore the potential of libraries as community hubs to tackle health and digital inequalities and promote mental and physical health and wellbeing. We analysed data from electronic survey and interviews to gauge perceptions. Descriptive statistics and thematic analysis were used to identify key trends and emergent themes. Our study findings show that libraries remain popular and are considered a ‘safe place’ by community members, irrespective of whether they are frequent users of services. Libraries already offer a variety of resources that either directly or indirectly support health and wellbeing, but public awareness of these services is limited and acts as a hurdle to improving community health and wellbeing. Targeted engagement with residents is needed to increase awareness of the services libraries offer, including community interventions to help tackle loneliness and inequalities in digital and health literacy. There was a clarion call for library staff to be more involved in decision-making. By acting as community hubs, libraries are ideally suited to deliver interventions to help tackle the existing and emergent health and digital inequalities following the advent of the COVID-19 pandemic.