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Meditation in the Academic Library

November 15, 2021

As libraries become about space just as much as they are about research, many academic libraries are searching for ways to best serve their students through programming within both physical and virtual spaces. Since the library is historically known for offering quiet and peace to stressed students, it is no wonder that there has been a growing interest in meditation in the library. Short, guided meditation sessions within the library offer students a break from the hustle of their daily routines, and it offers librarians a chance to connect with the student body and recommend further resources for mindfulness, be they books, articles, or campus mental health services.  

At the Wolfgram Memorial Library of Widener University, our librarians have offered both in-person and virtual meditation sessions in the past. Our physical meditation sessions (hosted before COVID-19 restrictions) took place in one of our open meeting rooms where many students could enjoy the meditation session without feeling crammed or distracted by other students coming and going from the library. Virtual sessions have been streamed through social media platforms like Facebook Live where students could sit with others while in the privacy of their own homes. 

As a practicing Zen Buddhist and a library staff member, I am often interested in finding ways to help students destress and find a mindfulness and meditation practice that works best for them. Both time and space are real considerations, but knowledge is a big barrier to students accessing this mental health tool, too. Books and articles can give students theoretical knowledge of the practice, but the best way to learn how to meditate is by doing it. Apps like Insight Timer, Headspace, and Calm can offer an easy start to meditation. Still, nothing beats the guidance of another person when it comes to learning any new skill, and meditation is no different. 

Scheduling meditation sessions later in the semester when students are eager for a break can be very beneficial. 30-minute sessions scheduled around lunch time are long enough and flexible enough for students to get the hang of the practice and try it out for themselves. Longer sessions can seem intimidating to those who are new to meditation practice. Including other faculty members on campus who are skilled in meditation to assist with the program can also help spread awareness. 

To offer a meditation program at your academic library or to enhance your current program, consider the following questions: 

  1. What kinds of spaces do we have available for a meditation program? Are these spaces naturally quiet and peaceful or can they be temporarily adjusted to made so? 
  1. Who can we collaborate with on campus to assist with and promote a meditation session? Mental health services and student groups are a great place to start. 
  1. How much time can both students and librarians or library staff members dedicate to a mindfulness or meditation session? 
  1. Would students on campus benefit from more guidance in a meditation session, or do they have familiarity and therefore would be better assisted by focusing on a dedicated time and space? 
  1. What resources does the library have to support further mindfulness practices for interested students? 

As far as library programs go, meditation sessions are an affordable and flexible option that offer many benefits to the student community, along with faculty and staff. Meditation programming also provides the opportunity to help students connect with other parts of campus. At the very least, teaching students about mindfulness can help them prepare for their future careers, where they will want to be mentally ready for whatever challenges come their way. In other words, making time and space for a meditation program at the academic library comes with all kinds of benefits for everyone involved.  

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