Money saving expert Martin Lewis has teamed up with the UK’s library and information association to offer advice to libraries considering becoming “warm banks”.
Warm banks or warm spaces are places where vulnerable people and those hit hard by the cost of living can spend time.
Martin first tweeted about warm banks in July this year, writing: “Can’t believe I’m writing this, but I wonder if this winter we’ll need ‘warm banks’, the equivalent of food banks where people who can’t afford heating are invited to spend their days, at no cost, with heating (eg in libraries, public buildings, etc)”
Following his tweet, he commissioned the Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals (Cilip) to create a guide titled A Warm Welcome, which sets out tips and guidance for libraries who want to offer themselves as warm banks.
In the introduction, Lewis said he was “both saddened and gladdened to quickly hear from a few councils and libraries already planning” to become warm banks when he tweeted.
Lewis asked Cilip to research and collate best-practice information, and the resultant guide, he wrote, is “not just for libraries, it’s for any organisation wanting to set up a warm space”.
“Of course, warm spaces are far from a panacea, not everyone will be able to get to warm spaces, not everyone will want to, and people will still need to heat their homes sometimes,” he added. “Yet I think they will turn out to be crucial extra help to get a decent number of vulnerable people through the winter.”
The guide says that warm spaces need to “be free to use and encourage people to stay as long as they want”. The space also “needs to be a friendly, comfortable environment where people feel at ease and at home”. Safety is also key, and the space should be accessible to everyone with those considering becoming a warm bank looking “at barriers that may prevent this, not just for wheelchair users, but also for visitors with additional or special needs”.
A survey earlier this year by Libraries Connected, a charity which represents public libraries, found that nearly 60% are actively considering taking part in a warm bank scheme. However, just 4% of library leaders expect to receive any extra funding for this activity.
In addition, a Guardian survey of libraries in England and Wales found that around half are no longer charging adults late fees on borrowed items, in a bid to encourage people to use their services more and to help ease financial pressures.
• This article was amended on 13 October 2022. An earlier version of the text and headline suggested that Martin Lewis had created the “warm banks” guide. In fact, it was independently produced by the Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals, though Lewis commissioned and funded it, and wrote the foreword.