During my National Library Tour, while I Presided the American Library Association (ALA), I met many dedicated library workers experiencing stress and anxiety brought by daily life and in their workplace with library patrons and coworkers. As a woman with deep interests in mental and physical health, and overall well-being of library workers, I knew I had to do something to help. Based on those conversations and prior collaboration with researchers in the area of libraries + wellness, I worked with the stellar ALA and ALA-Allied Professional Association (ALA-APA) staff members and my Presidential Advisory Board to develop resources to help library workers manage stress and anxiety. As per conversations with colleagues from around the world, I am sharing our wellness resources and efforts on this post. I hope you are inspired to review and adapt them to the needs of library workers in your city, region and country.
- The ALA–APA Wellness Website for library workers was revamped with new content. Originally created under ALA Past President Loriene Roy’s 2007-2008 Circle of Wellness Initiative, the Workplace Wellness website contained information regarding seven dimensions of wellness, covering emotional, environmental, intellectual, occupational, physical, spiritual and social wellness. We worked with a student of Dr. Roy to add supplemental information for all the areas, update the website and add an eight area dedicated to financial wellness.
- A free webinar entitled ‘Strategies for wellness for those experiencing microaggressions plus workplace stress’ was presented and its recording is available to all on the ALA-APA Emotional Wellness page. Speakers included Dr. Nicole A. Cooke (moderator), two librarians Pambanisha Whaley and Jaena Alabi, and a counselor educator Chippewa Thomas.
- Free courses on Wellness in the Library Workplace were presented through a partnership with the National Network of Libraries of Medicine and taught by Bobbie Newman.
- The inaugural ALA Presidential Citation for Wellness in the Workplace was presented during the ALA Annual Conference to recognize wellness efforts by libraries. Richland Library of Columbia, South Carolina was the first selected library for creating and sustaining system-wide support for library staff through multiple wellness initiatives and efforts. They initiated Project Play, an innovative approach to providing each library department with discretionary funds to support activities they choose to improve staff wellness such as bowling, karaoke, social lunches, meditation and coloring; for including the ambitious goal in its strategic plan “to be the most progressive and sought-after employer in the country”; for having the lowest staff turnover in 21 years through initiatives such as Project Play and revised family and medical leave and paid time off policies; for launching an accessible exercise option for staff by opening an exercise room for staff in the Main Branch; and for providing the convenient exercise option of sharable bicycles that library staff can use to travel to meetings.
- ALA staff members and I collaborated on a cooking demo where I shared nutritious recipes of vegetable juices and shrimp/veggie stir-fry on the Cooking Stage of the ALA Annual Conference Exhibits Floor.
- One of my President’s Column for American Libraries was dedicated to encourage library workers to immerse themselves in wellness. It featured examples of libraries providing wellness opportunities and resources for their library workers. Check it out!
In addition to these resources, I would like to highlight the work of Dr. Noah Lenstra whose research for his forthcoming book, Healthy Living at the Library: Programs for All Ages, confirms my belief that programs bringing wellness to library workers can also impact library patrons. As he says, “In other words, libraries that invest in staff wellness also invest in the health and wellness of the communities they serve.” To learn more about this research, visit the website Let’s Move in Libraries: http://letsmovelibraries.org/
I hope you are as inspired as I am to continue developing wellness strategies for library workers. I am happy to connect with you about this!
International Library Consultant
Immediate Past President, American Library Association
IFLA Governing Board Member 2013-2017
IFLA CPDWL Member
The concept of wellness in the library profession is very important. Mission creep and the pressures of every day life are a real and ever present concern. Thanks for sharing these resources.