older person sitting at a table in a library turning the page of a newspaper
Love to Learn

A Library Prescription for Loneliness

Let’s face it. Despite the twinkling lights, peppermint drinks, and supercharged cheerfulness, this time of year can be tough to cope with—especially if you feel alone. During the pandemic lockdowns, we embraced changes such as takeout meals, online shopping, streaming movies, and reading eBooks. These are now conveniences that keep us comfortably at home. But as a result of having fewer interactions or meaningful connections with others, loneliness is on the rise.

Last month, the World Health Organization announced loneliness and social isolation may soon reach epidemic proportions. They identified serious health risks linked to loneliness, such as dementia, stroke, and heart disease. But along with this dire news, the WHO’s leading health experts also suggested a simple prescription to combat loneliness—getting in touch with others by phone, online, and in-person; doing things you enjoy; and reaching out to local services that can connect you with others.

Connect With Others in a Third Place

Your local public library is a great place to start.

Last year, Burlington Public Library took part in a research project out of McMaster University about how libraries can support connections and successful aging. This ongoing project explores the role public libraries play in strengthening social inclusion for older adults in the community. While this study focuses on older adults, the library offers opportunities for connection to people of all ages.

“We want everyone to feel welcome and included when they visit Burlington Public Library in person and online,” says David Quezada, manager of Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion at Burlington Public Library (BPL). “We care deeply about providing an accessible communal space for all.”

Libraries are sometimes called a “third place.” This sociology term refers to familiar and welcoming surroundings separate from the two places where most people spend most of their time—work and home. Spending time in a “third place” can increase your social connections and sense of belonging.

Whether visiting for a few minutes or lingering for hours—you’re always welcome at Burlington Public Library. Pop in to chat with staff while you browse our displays. Or, if you’re looking to socialize and meet people with similar interests, perhaps you’d enjoy attending an interactive program such as Knit ‘n’ Natter or BPL Book Club. And don’t forget that we have comfy seats to settle in and lots of newspapers and magazines to read if you’re looking to spend a few hours in a friendly space away from home.

Get the Jump on Seasonal Affective Disorder

Are these cold, damp, and grey days getting you down? A form of depression called Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) may cause changes in your feeling of well-being during the late fall and winter months.

If you’re experiencing mild, temporary “winter blues,” increasing your exposure to natural or artificial daylight can help reduce seasonal doldrums. Come into our library branches for a mood boost under a light therapy floor lamp. The lamp’s bright UV-filtered light mimics natural sunlight. (Sorry, tropical heat is not included!)

adult reading a book facing a light therapy lamp

Talk to Local Support Services

While simply getting out of the house can be enough to kick a mild case of loneliness, we know some folks need more support.

If you’re not sure where to turn, our caring library staff can refer you to people and places in the community that can support you. You can call our main telephone number at 905.639.3611 during library open hours. Or reach out to us at infoburlington@bpl.on.ca, and we will reply to you within two working days.

“Connecting people with community resources is an important part of what we do at the library,” says Quezada. “We can provide guidance to help you find the services you need.”

We also have free drop-in sessions inside the library where you can talk to specialists from local support organizations.

We Look Forward to Seeing You Soon

We are where you are—anywhere in our city. All library branches are located on Burlington Transit routes, and parking is free at every location. We are open every day except statutory holidays. Make sure you check out our open hours during the holiday season before you visit. If you’re ever feeling lonely, know that you can find a friendly face and a warm hello at your local library.

Let’s Talk About Loneliness booklist