CILIPS Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals in Scotland
Navigation Close

Wellbeing in Libraries

Category: Branches and Groups

ARLGS TeachMeet, 7th November 2019, University of Strathclyde, Joy McLean

On a cold November afternoon, ARLGS hosted a TeachMeet focusing on Wellbeing in Libraries. The presentations, delivered by speakers (myself included!) from HE, FE and public libraries encompassed several different aspects of, and approaches to, support for wellbeing within libraries.

Ros Walker and Trudie Pistilli’s opening presentation focussed on Yarnfulness, a knitting and crochet group that they facilitate in the Library Makerspace at the University of Stirling. Ros and Trudie run this group in their spare time, usually during their lunch break. Open to all staff and students, anyone can join the group, whether knitting expert or complete novice. It was interesting to hear how the informality and friendly nature of the group provided a welcome respite from daily work and study for its members, both through the social gathering and mindful practice of knitting and crocheting. Ros and Trudie also brought examples of knitting that the group had created, including hats and toys for premature babies.

Next, I provided an overview of how the Library Service at West College Scotland aims to support wellbeing within the Further Education sector. Outlining three different strands, I discussed raising awareness through staff development, such as Scottish Mental Health First Aid, to ensure staff have appropriate knowledge to support wellbeing; developing a holistic library collection to support the wider student experience, including a specific wellbeing collection; and running events linked to initiatives such as Book Week Scotland and World Book Night. Observing student use of the Library has emphasised its status as a safe space for many students, particularly when few social areas exist for relaxation outside class time and any that do are predominantly busy and noisy.

James Robertson of Glasgow School of Art Library gave an illuminating presentation on neurodiversity and libraries, explaining how the library environment (lighting, acoustics, colour, classification, signage, etc.) can help or hinder a neurodivergent individual’s experience and contribute to library anxiety. The Library has employed strategies to support neurodivergent students at GSA including the development of colour-coded signage designed to direct students to subject areas rather than specific items; designated librarians as a point of contact for support; the provision of resources through accessible formats; and the creation of a silent reading and sensory room. James’s presentation highlighted to me that, with thorough consultation and planning, adaptations can be made at relatively low cost to ensure that libraries provide an inclusive service and environment for all. It was valuable to learn about RNIB Bookshare, membership of which allows educators to provide access to downloadable curriculum resources that support print-disabled learners, and I have since started the process of setting up membership for my own institution.

Jennifer Robertson then spoke about the creation of a Family Study Lounge in the University of Glasgow Library. The first of its kind in Scotland, Jennifer outlined the different stages involved in providing an accessible, safe and welcoming space for parents, carers and their families on campus. She discussed the importance of consultation, not only to build a case for the proposal but also to allay fears concerning the space such as the perception that the library would ‘become a creche’. Further challenges included the necessity for a sustainable and cost-effective space that was easily maintained, and management of expectations regarding use of the space, particularly when space is at a premium on campus. However, feedback gathered from students following the introduction of the Family Study Lounge indicates that there has been a positive impact on students with family and caring responsibilities. As with James’s presentation, this illustrated that innovative solutions can be achieved with careful planning and consultation.

The afternoon finished with an opportunity to improve our own wellbeing through creativity. Michelle Rae from Glasgow Life demonstrated the art of book-folding, encouraging us all to make our own paper hedgehogs. Using withdrawn book stock, Michelle runs classes for adults and children within Glasgow’s public libraries as she has discovered that the craft appeals to all ages. She explained how book-folding is one of the easiest but most satisfying crafts to try as spectacular results can be achieved from a few simple folds. The activity has a meditative quality and I quickly became absorbed in the process of folding one sheet after another feeling a welcome sense of satisfaction once I had finished making my hedgehog. For me, this was the perfect end to a fascinating and enjoyable afternoon.

Skip to content