Four recent papers about academic libraries and wellbeing

Image of ALISS Quarterly front cover

Last year, one of our Task & Finish Group members, Clare Hunter, graduated from Robert Gordon University via distance learning. Clare works as a Senior Information Assistant at Royal Holloway, University of London.

Her dissertation was about how academic libraries can support students’ mental health. Here, she highlights four recent articles which she found particularly relevant and which would serve as a great starting point for further reading in the subject. Clare’s dissertation (including a full list of references) can be downloaded here.

Ramsey, E and Aagard, M.C. (2018). Academic libraries as active contributors to student wellness. College & Undergraduate Libraries, 25(4), pp. 328-334.

DOI: https://doi.org/10.1080/10691316.2018.151743

This paper provides a useful overview of the important role that academic libraries can play in the wellbeing of students. The authors look at previous research and refer to their own experience to identify the important qualities academic libraries have that could make them useful for supporting mental health and wellbeing. By using their role as trusted information providers and community centres, academic libraries can partner with other on campus agencies to effectively support wellbeing.

Robison, M. and Muszkiewicz, R. (2018). Whiteboards, Blanket Forts, and Autonomy: Using Self-Determination Theory to Improve Library De-Stress Programming. Public Services Quarterly, 14(4), pp. 309-328.

DOI: https://doi.org/10.1080/15228959.2018.1485531

This paper focuses on initiatives that have been undertaken at Valparaiso University in Indiana, USA to help reduce stress in students. These have included ‘group scream’, ‘build your own blanket fort’, and punching bags. Interestingly, most of the de-stress initiatives were suggested and voted on by the students themselves. Focus groups conducted by the authors found that students liked the sense of agency that choosing their own activities gave them and were more likely to attend programs they personally suggested or voted for.  Hosting the activities also increased positive perception of the library.

Cox, A. and Brewster, L. (2020). Library support for the student mental health and well-being in the UK: Before and during the pandemic, The Journal of Academic Librarianship, 46 (6).

DOI: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.acalib.2020.102256

This paper looks at the changes that have occurred in mental health and wellbeing for students in the UK, both before and during the COVID-19 pandemic. The survey the authors conducted found that prior to the pandemic much of the focus for wellbeing in libraries was on library-specific services such as a fiction collection or self-help books, whereas the pandemic has shifted this focus to the anxiety around e-resources. The authors also developed a model of library support for student mental health and well-being, based around eight principal aspects: inherent library value, library services impact, wellbeing as a library service, detection, hosting, signposting, library as a good partner, and library staff wellbeing.

ALISS Quarterly, 14(2). Special issue: Wellbeing and Libraries

This special issue highlights initiatives for improving staff and student wellbeing from several different UK universities. It is a good starting point if you are looking for simple and interesting ideas for how your own library can begin to support wellbeing.

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