‘Books are great medicine – for the mind, the heart and soul’

‘Ireland Reads’ day aims to get everyone reading for their greater wellbeing

Featured on: irishtimes.com

TRAVEL books are flying off library shelves as holiday-hungry readers plan their post-Covid getaway. 

Librarians say overseas guides are the big page-turners since libraries re-opened to the public – as Ireland Reads Day today (Feb25) encourages adults and children across the country to ‘squeeze in a read’. 

The national wellness initiative by Libraries Ireland and Healthy Ireland has so far seen the public pledge well over 200,000 minutes of reading. 

“It seems a lot of people are going away, there have been lots of requests for guide books and our travel section is now half full, indicating that people are travelling again,” said Tracy McEneaney, 48, Executive Librarian at Waterford Libraries. 

And as libraries return to full operation, she has also reunited some members with lost belongings – recently finding €300 in cash tucked into a book returned to the city’s Ardkeen Library. 

“We did a bit of investigation and found out that a woman had put the money in the book to pay for a relative’s headstone; we managed to track her down (through her membership number) and she was delighted to get it back. 

“We often find money in books, which many people use as safe places to store belongings.” 

She said  people remain surprised that access to 12 million books in Ireland’s library network is free – and there are no fines for late returns – benefitting one member who recently returned a book borrowed in the 1960s. 

The Ireland Reads drive is backed by a host of ambassadors, including broadcasters Joe Duffy and Rick O’Shea, authors Liz Nugent, Sarah Webb and Marian Keyes, who described discovering Enid Blyton books at the age of six as being “like my saviour”. 

“From then on, and right to this day, reading is the way that I mind myself. If you think you don’t like reading, trust me, you just haven’t met the right book yet,” she said. 

“Because I read, I always have a companion when I have insomnia, it takes away my anxiety when I am worried about stuff, which is always, because that’s the way I am. 

“If you haven’t been a reader, don’t be afraid, it’s meant to be something nice for you, not the opposite.” 

Libraries across the country are holding events to encourage everyone to pick up a book today – including the new North Clondalkin library in Dublin, which is staging a DEAR (Drop Everything and Read) event, followed by a local author’s book launch, while Drogheda in Co Louth has a ‘pledge tree’ allowing readers to commit to their reading minutes. 

Online, readers can log their reading time at irelandreads.ie

Library members can borrow from 12million items free or use the BorrowBox app to choose from over 40,000 ebooks and 30,000 audiobooks. Library members also have free access to online newspapers and magazines. 

Ireland Reads is a public libraries initiative in partnership with booksellers, publishers, the National Adult Literacy Agency, Children’s Books Ireland, the Arts Council and Healthy Ireland. 

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