Midlothian library's tree spreads kindness

Kindness tree

A ‘kindness tree’ in Dalkeith Library is among 10 Scotland-wide library initiatives playing a vital role in helping to improve wellbeing according to findings in a new report published by Carnegie UK Trust.

Building better relationships

Over the last year, Carnegie UK Trust worked with 10 public libraries in Scotland, including the Midlothian Library Service, providing support and funding to develop and deliver projects that encourage people to think about kindness and to build better relationships with those around them.

Rising to the pandemic challenge

Despite being conducted during the COVID-19 pandemic that brought restrictions on the use of library buildings, the report highlights how local libraries were able to adapt and innovate, creating opportunities for people to connect in different spaces and through different mediums.

Blossoms of hope

Staff members at Dalkeith Library crafted a cherry blossom ‘kindness’ tree. 

Sharing memories

Staff, local groups and library users have written memories and messages of kindness on heart shaped leaves reflecting on what helped them during the pandemic.

Time of reflection

The aim was to give people reading the notes a chance to reflect on kindness and be buoyed by, and connect to, everyday examples of kindness in their community.

A real talking point

Isobel Allen, Customer Service Team Leader, said: “The tree has been up since we reopened in April and it’s been lovely to see so many people writing and reading the messages. The tree has become a bit of a talking point and the messages are very uplifting.  The project has fitted in well with our council-wide Kindness Midlothian campaign which saw so many local people doing everything from delivering prescriptions to shopping for vulnerable people during the worst of the pandemic. We’re going to keep the tree up for longer as it is so popular.”

Libraries across Scotland joined in

Examples from other participating libraries included postcard and letter exchanges between schoolchildren and older members of the community; and virtual cafés that created space for community conversations about kindness.

Simple acts have a lasting impact

The key finding from these initiatives is that simple, low cost interventions can have a real impact on wellbeing for library users, workers and the wider community. The authors recommend that library services across Scotland should support their staff to be innovate and think creatively about the vital role they can play in encouraging kindness and improving relationships in their local communities.

Highlights importance of being kind

Sarah Davidson, CEO of The Carnegie UK Trust, said: “Libraries across Scotland have shown that small interventions underpinned by kindness can have a positive impact on people’s lives. It has been heartening to see libraries’ commitment to exploring the importance of kindness. This came when many communities most needed local togetherness and a sense of community spirit. These initiatives provide a template to inspire public libraries in Scotland to continue playing this vital role.”

More information

Isobel Allen is pictured on the right along with her colleague at Dalkeith library Colleen Quinn.

12 Jul 2021