Immerse Yourself in Wellness

Mindfulness practices have intangible benefits for library workers

January 2, 2019

Loida Garcia-Febo

In these uncertain times, we all benefit from kindness, mindfulness, and wellness. This year, I want to help library workers manage the stress and anxiety experienced both in daily life and in their interactions with patrons and coworkers.

As a first step, a three-member ALA Workplace Wellness Advisory Committee and I collaborated with the American Library Association–Allied Professional Association (ALA-APA) to renew the wellness website started by former ALA President Loriene Roy (2007–2008).

Thanks to graduate students in Roy’s School of Information class at University of Texas at Austin, the site has been revamped and is chock-full of resources, including new information on eight wellness areas for library workers: emotional, environmental, financial, intellectual, occupational, physical, social, and spiritual.

Based on sobering conversations with library workers at libraries and conferences, we are planning webinars on how to manage micro­aggressions and workplace stress.

I also want to encourage employers to promote wellness within their workplaces. Together with ALA-APA, I will establish a presidential citation to recognize annually one library’s efforts in the area of wellness.

ALA President Loida Garcia-Febo, right, with librarian and AL columnist Meredith Farkas at the ACRL-Oregon/Washington joint conference outside of Portland, Oregon.
ALA President Loida Garcia-Febo, right, with librarian and AL columnist Meredith Farkas at the ACRL-Oregon/Washington joint conference outside of Portland, Oregon, in October 2018.

The development of wellness initiatives can benefit our library workers tremendously. I love what McQuade Library has done for students and library workers at Merrimack College in North Andover, Massachusetts. The library provides a meditation room; a series of breathing classes to help reduce stress and anxiety; bikes with immersive technology; movie nights about environmental issues; plants for residence halls and offices; and mindful kits on bird watching, yoga, meditation, chakras, sound healing, creative healing, and gardening.

Find more inspirations on the Mindfulness for Librarians Facebook group, administered by Madeleine Charney, sustainability studies librarian at University of Massachusetts Amherst, and in New York Library Association’s Sustainability Initiative newsletter.

As Charney has posted on Facebook, dedicated space and resources are an expense, but we must think about the intangible return on investment for our library community as we face “catastrophic climate and social chaos.” Making these tools accessible to our library workers will help all of us, our libraries, and the communities they serve.

Throughout the Association, wellness is important to us. ALA-APA, ALA, and its divisions have increased conference programming in this area, and ALA-APA’s Library Worklife newsletter is full of recommendations for libraries and library workers. ALA Editions and American Libraries magazine have comprehensively covered kindness, mindfulness, and wellness. The Sustainability Round Table of ALA compiles resources that contribute to advancing a more equitable, healthy, and economically viable society.

It is heartening to see more programming at conferences—such as the Kentucky Library Association convention and the Joint Conference of Librarians of Color, both held last September—that help library workers deal with microaggressions and workplace stress. It was also special to see many attendees of the New England Library Association’s annual conference in October participate in a “mindful labyrinth,” which a person walks through to calm body and mind. It was equally inspiring to hear about attendees of ACRL-Oregon/Washington’s joint conference in October taking a walk through the forest overlooking the beautiful Columbia River Gorge, 23 miles outside of Portland.

Let’s continue to work together, kindly supporting one another in our path toward wellness.


Mindfulness for Librarians

Mindful Librarianship

Awareness of each moment helps librarians stay serene under stress

Librarians Megan Donald (left) and Emily Tichenor of Tulsa (Okla.) Community College sit in the meditation room at the West Campus Library. Photo: Tulsa (Okla.) Community College.

A Space Apart

College libraries contemplate meditation rooms