Hundreds of books delivered to vulnerable Edinburgh families in isolation

Families with vulnerable children who are shielding at home in Edinburgh are to have hundreds of books delivered to their doorsteps thanks to a new charity partnership.

Edinburgh Children’s Hospital Charity (ECHC) – which supports the Royal Hospital for Sick Children – has teamed up with Edinburgh Libraries to help children and their siblings feed their imaginations while shielding for 12 weeks.

Edinburgh Libraries’ Book Bus

With libraries currently closed, Edinburgh Libraries has made available a Book Bus filled with around 1800 books for children and young people to ECHC. The bus will be stationed at the charity’s office, where volunteer delivery drivers will collect book packages and deliver them to local families who are known to the Sick Kids hospital on a regular basis. Through the book deliveries, the charity aims to bring fun and distraction to children and to help improve their mental wellbeing during lockdown.

The book delivery service has also been made possible thanks to generous sponsorship from Baillie Gifford.

Caroline Leishman has been shielding her family of three boys for eight weeks as her youngest son is on active treatment for Leukaemia.

She said: “Coming up with new and exciting ways to keep everyone occupied and distracted while also looking after a clinically vulnerable child becomes a little bit harder as each week goes by.

“It was such a relief when the book parcel from ECHC arrived on our doorstep. The kids were so excited to open it and discover all the new books they had to read which gave us some much needed breathing space!

“Books are such a wonderful resource for children who are shielding. They let their imaginations run wild so they can go on all sorts of fantastic adventures without ever leaving the safety of home.”

Book bags ready to be delivered

Roslyn Neely, CEO of ECHC, said: “We know from our work in the hospital that taking part in fun and creative activities that feed the imagination is the best way to take away children’s fear and feelings of isolation when they are unwell.

“It must be unimaginably tough for children and their siblings having to shield at home when they already face significant health challenges. We know the power of storytelling and the benefits that brings to children in hospital so we’re positive it will have the same effect in the home.

“We believe that nothing should get in the way of being a child. Even though they can’t physically be out and about in the world right now, children have a huge appetite for adventure and there’s a whole world of creativity and magic in their imaginations.

“Bringing books to their doorsteps through this wonderful partnership with Edinburgh Libraries is a great way to ensure they still have access to that. We’re also so grateful to Baillie Gifford for their sponsorship and to all our volunteer drivers for making this possible.”

City of Edinburgh Council Leader Adam McVey said: “We’re delighted we can help families known to the Sick Kids and thanks to our library team who have been superb. One of our mobile libraries is filled with about 1,800 children’s books so what better way of putting these books to good use.

“Books are a wonderful resource and will really help families having to self-isolate in their homes for 12 weeks. Reading as a family is a joy and can help to improve well-being – a recent study found that six minutes of reading can reduce stress levels by 60%. This is a great example showing how working together with partners in the city can respond to the needs of our communities.”

Book deliveries are one of a number of things that ECHC is doing to support children and families during the pandemic, all of which are being delivered safely in line with government restrictions during this time. All books that are returned to the Book Bus will be held on board for 72 hours for infection control before being recirculated.

Staff preparing the Book bus and bags

The charity is also distributing Emergency Care Packs of food and essential supplies, toiletries and arts and activity items. Families known to the Royal Hospital for Sick Children who would like any of the emergency care packs on offer are asked to contact Leigh at ECHC on 0131 668 4949 or

If you wish, you can make a donation to ECHC’s Emergency COVID-19 Appeal online.

Books On Wheels

4293291804_b4c2a7f632_oEdinburgh is well served by libraries with 28 branches across the city. However, it’s not always possible for some folks to reach these branches so we have a number of other services operating which allow access to books and reading. These include the mobile library, the home delivery service an library link.

Mobile Library Service
The mobile library service first took to the road in 1949 becoming the first service of its kind in Scotland.  The first van cost £1,836 and carried around 2,000 books across 10 sites.

Mobile Library out in the community

Mobile library in 1954

These days the mobile library makes 79 different stops across the city covering areas from Balerno and Ratho to Leith and Restalrig.  It also visits sheltered housing and retirement flats where residents can come on to the bus to choose book and books can be delivered straight to the rooms of those living in care homes. 

We caught up with George from the mobile team in Marchmont and after initial parking difficulties a delivery was duly made to  appreciative residents of a sheltered housing complex.

George tells us the relationship between staff and readers is one of the rewarding parts of the job: “Even though there’s no specific branch that we work from we still get to know readers pretty well and build up a relationship.  We get to know them pretty well and their taste in books and we’re always keeping an eye out for books coming in they’d be interested in.”

Home delivery service for housebound readers

Housebound readers service inauguration

Launch of the home delivery service in 1964

We also aim to reach out to the community through the housebound service. This service was launched as Books on Wheels in 1964 in partnership with the WRVS and Social Services Dept.  Today a team of  RVS volunteers still help deliver books to the doorstep of those who are housebound through illness or disability. We currently make around 450  housebound deliveries each month.

Library Link Service
The Library Link is another great service which opens access to the library for those who may have difficulty reaching a branch.  It is a free bus service for anyone who has difficulty getting to the library because of age, disability or ill health. Trained staff and Royal Voluntary Service volunteers will provide help getting on and of the bus and there is plenty time to choose books and enjoy a coffee and a chat before being taken home again. This service started in 1992 at Muirhouse 23 years on it is now an integral library service offered across the city. In Feb 2015 we delivered 56 sessions engaging with 475 people.

Some of the Library Linkers visiting Portobello Library told us of the benefits of the service:

Eileen: “I’ve been coming here for 11 years now. I’ve been using it the longest out of everyone here. For me it’s the social aspect, it’s about getting out and meeting people just as much as the books.  I had an operation on my hip so it became a bit more difficult to get down so this service has definitely helped to improve my social life”


Library Link at Portobello


Library Link at Portobello

Catherine agrees: “I gave up driving when I was 91, I’m 95 now. This is the only way I’d be able to come to the library now.  The staff here are very helpful and always have some books ready for me but it’s good to have the time to look myself aswell. I’m looking for some Sottish poetry today.


Library Link at Portobello

If you’d like to find out more about any of these services call Access Services on 0131 529 5683.

Archive images courtesy of Capital Collections.

Spook out for the mobile library…

To celebrate All Hallow’s Read, we’re parking one of our Mobile Morbid Libraries on Castle Street in the City Centre from 11am to 3pm tomorrow.

If you’re a library member we’ve got a small selection of unimpressive treats to give away – including our unfamous “All Hallow’s Scrolls”. Sadly, (or perhaps fortunately) the number is limited, so it’s first come, first served.

If you’re not a member, that’s okay as we’ll be signing people up on the day.  No need to sign away your immortal soul – just live, work or study within the City of Edinburgh and if possible provide proof of address and signature.

Please tweet to @TalesofOneCity if you do catch sight of the fabled vessel, lying in wait for its next victim customer.

#edspooklib  #allhallowsread

The vehicle has disabled access –please just make yourself known to the staff on board.

Hope to see  scare you there.

Morningside Mobile Service

The mobile service at Morningside Library will only be available between 10am-12.30pm and then 4-7pm tomorrow. Unfortunately there will be no service between 12.30-4pm due to unavoidable maintenance work.  Apologies for any inconvenience this may cause.

Morningside Library Service – Tuesday 7th June

The mobile library covering the Morningside Library service will be closed from 1pm today, and will reopen on Thursday, 9th June  at 10am. This is due to unavoidable vehicle repair.

We apologise for this interruption to service. Remember you can still renew books online, or by phoning or visiting your nearest library – use our handy postcode search to find out which one that is.

Easter holidays and Royal nuptials

Just a quick reminder that libraries will be closed on Good Friday (22nd April) and Easter Monday (25th April).  However, during the Easter weekend, libraries will be open on Saturday 23 April and Sunday 24 April if they are usually open on a Sunday.

We’ll also be closed for the Royal Wedding on Friday 29th April. To set the mood take a look our Royals in Edinburgh exhibition, featuring pictures of city streets and buildings festooned in decorations and bunting to welcome kings and queens to Edinburgh.

See the crowds thronging the streets to catch a glimpse of their monarch and check out some lovely pictures of a community in Gorgie celebrating the Queen’s Coronation in 1953 with a street party and dancing. There are also earlier images of the Queen, when as Princess Elizabeth, she visited the city with her parents in September 1945 to celebrate the victorious end of World War Two.

Library services affected by weekend snowfall

Mobile Library services on Monday 20th December are again affected by weekend snowfall.

We’ll try and run part services once we’ve cleared the exit and are checking with care homes to see what access we can get.

As usual you can call us on 0131 529 5683 for an update.

Mobile libraries latest

Mobile libraries will run as normal today (Monday 13th December) and the rest of the week but we still can’t get to all our stops.

If you can’t see us call 0131 529 5683 and we’ll tell you where we’ve stopped.

Mobile (or should that be immobile) libraries – latest

All Mobile Library operations remain grounded to 12th December.

So too are the library link and housebound services. If the side roads improve we hope to offer extra housebound deliveries next week and up to Christmas.

We have managed to deliver some library services to a few accessible care homes and children and family centres using alternative delivery methods so things have improved a little.

Better news is that Ratho Library has re-opened – along with all other libraries it will be open from 10am till 5pm today and tomorrow.

Mobile Libraries, Library Link, Housebound

All Mobiles Library services, Library Link and Housebound services are cancelled today 7th December and tomorrow 8th December.

We’re very sorry we can’t operate these services  –  we know how important they are to our customers – let’s hope the weather improves at the end of the week enough for some mobile services to start up again!

As before if any housebound reader is desperate for books – please call access services on 529 5683 and we’ll see what we can do.

Mobile Library Services

Mobile Library Services have reviewed road conditions today (Monday 6th December).

Although we can get the vehicles onto the main roads we have had to cancel all mobile library, library link and housebound services due to road conditions on side roads, access to premises, restricted kerbside parking and narrowed roads in the estates where we operate.

We will review again tomorrow and look at alternative locations where it is possible to park without obstructing other services or getting stuck ourselves.

If any housebound reader is getting desperate for reading material could you let us know by calling 0131 529 5683, leaving your name, address and phone number and we’ll see what we can do – no promises but we’ll try!

Brr! Closures etc

Our mobile libraries are off the roads until further notice.

We’re also having problems with the phones  – if you can’t get through to your local library and want to renew your books or whatever please call 0131 242 8020.

We’ve just heard that Sighthill Library is closed today as well.

For the very latest announcements check our news feed on twitter.