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Health and Wellness in the Academic Library

April 29, 2015

At the end of March, I was able to attend the ACRL Conference (Association of College and Research Libraries) in Portland, Oregon, where some of the sessions I attended were focused on health and wellness for students, staff, and faculty in academic libraries. Over the past two years, my library has been involved in a campus-wide campaign focusing on health and wellness. Therefore, with our library participating in many of these wellness movements (heh), I attended a few ACRL sessions focused on these topics applied to the academic library.

During these sessions, presenters and participants shared ideas for stress reduction and study breaks for students. At our library, we have a program called Take a Break. Every night at 9:00 p.m. during the week before finals and the week of finals, the library provides a snack break sponsored by a different campus department, group, club, and/or by individuals. We send out campus-wide announcements requesting sponsorship a few weeks before finals, and students are appreciative of the donations of food and drinks each night. Students take a few minutes to stand up from their work, walk around the library, grab some snacks and beverages, and socialize while they refuel. We also ask participants to sign a thank-you note each evening for the sponsor(s), and both students and sponsors seem happy to participate.

In addition to Take a Break, we recently added exercise balls (also called stability balls), yoga mats, and yoga blocks to our circulating collection. Students use the exercise balls as substitutes for chairs throughout the library, and the yoga mats and blocks can be checked out for use with our student Yoga Club, which takes place in a room in the library once a week. Our students work with a local yoga studio to have certified teachers come to campus to conduct classes at a lower cost than the studio prices. Our administration has also added yoga classes for faculty and staff, and the instructor for those sessions has led the library staff in guided meditation and mindfulness exercises before staff training sessions, which is a wonderful way to set a positive and focused tone for meetings.

As another part of the wellness initiative, the library has developed a great collection of books, DVDs, kits, and other materials featuring nutrition information and exercise programs, which are popular with our whole university community: Our administrative assistant, Sue Lazur, created a display in January 2015 featuring these materials:Wellness Collection Display

I feel like this new focus on health and wellness in the library and on campus in general is helping our students, faculty, and staff feel more comfortable with these topics in an academic setting. Sometimes I think that putting 100% of our focus on academics puts our health and physical/mental well-being on a back burner, but there are ways to integrate those into our academic lives, such as using an exercise ball as a chair while studying or working to challenge and strengthen balance and physical awareness. What do you think of ideas like these? Is your library engaging in any health- or wellness-focused programming, collection development, or resource-sharing?

Author’s Note: I was not responsible for all of the projects described herein, so if you have questions about anything we’ve done, please feel free to comment, and I can get you in touch with the person behind the project!

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