Libraries on prescription

Working together to unlock the healing power of stories for people with complex social and mental health challenges.

The challenge 

The Agorateca Community Library started life in 2019 in a disused building in a suburban district of Altamura in the Apulia region of Italy – an area at high risk of social and educational deprivation. 

Working in collaboration with the local community, the challenge team wanted to explore how to support sustainable urban regeneration by encouraging local people to come together and share resources.

With the help of volunteers, they set up Biblioteca delle Cose (or ‘library of things’), which inspires locals to get involved in an initiative that both saves money and demonstrates how materials can have a second life.

The initiative

Athens Comics Library is working together with Refugee Week Greece – a community initiative celebrating the contribution and creativity of people who have experienced migration – to unlock the therapeutic power of stories.
They are creating a ‘Library on Prescription’ scheme – offering a range of psychosocial and creative services to help provide safe spaces for people to connect and heal. They believe that sharing stories and experiences with mental health and illness is an important way of reducing stigma, raising mental health awareness, and building a sense of community.
Together, they have reached out to 45 libraries across Greece and selected four to design and deliver a programme of tailored-made creative activities for local communities facing mental health challenges – from Athens to Crete – to pilot the initiative with different groups, including young people, people with learning disabilities, elderly women in rural areas and prisoners.

What’s next?

Their vision is to create a toolkit for a 12-week Libraries on Prescription course for libraries across Greece and Europe to help deliver the programme and a campaign to educate and advocate for mental health across Europe. With sufficient funding, the challenge team believes the programme could have a long-lasting impact on the well-being of people across Greece, while also promoting the cultural sector. They also believe it could be implemented by the National Health System, as a cultural prescription scheme. 

Relevant links

Athens Comics Library

Libraries on Perscription

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