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Making Space for Wellness: Grant-funded Projects to Support Visitor Wellbeing in the Library


 

Chloe Hough, MLIS, AHIP 
Reference and Instruction Librarian 
Tampa Bay Regional Campus Library, Nova Southeastern University  

Ariel Pomputius, MLIS, AHIP 
Health Sciences Liaison Librarian 
Health Science Center Libraries, University of Florida

Editor's Note: A version of this article was originally published in the Journal of Hospital Librarianship

Background 

As spaces for health information resources, health science libraries are uniquely suited to provide wellness resources and activities for visitors. The University of Florida (UF) Health Science Center (HSC) Library offers a non-clinical, non-classroom space for students, staff, and faculty from six health science colleges as well as the public. A project team from the HSC Library felt there was an opportunity to increase the wellbeing of library users in their library’s public spaces through two grant-funded projects to provide additional equipment. 

Given the past success and high usage of underdesk cycling exercisers, the project team used the first internal grant to invest in new types of exercisers and evaluate user feedback of the devices. Additionally, the library’s customer service desk frequently fielded patron requests for a mobile device charging locker for the purpose of disconnecting from their phone while studying. These inquiries inspired the project team to pursue a charging station as a second grant to support the wellness initiative. 

In order to support the grant applications, research on the new equipment and the perception of library visitors was conducted to confirm the importance of these initiatives and provide support for expansion of wellness equipment in library spaces. Studies have shown that the introduction of treadmill desks in an office environment improves not only physical activity, but also work performance (1). It has also been found that mindfulness interventions help to moderate the negative effects of cell phone addiction (2).

Methods 

Both projects evaluated the users’ perceptions of their wellbeing in terms of stress relief and productivity after engaging with the new equipment.  

Walking to Wellness with Underdesk Treadmills 
In January 2020, the librarians received an internal grant to fund two underdesk treadmills and an Intercollegiate Underdesk Exerciser Walking Challenge for the fall semester. The challenge entries were linked to the survey to encourage participation; the surveys were created digitally in Qualtrics and available via a QR code on the equipment itself. However, the shutdowns due to the pandemic delayed the release of the equipment, and engagement when the library reopened was limited.   

Digital Disconnecting with Charging Locker 
In June 2020, the project team received a second internal grant to place a mobile charging stand on the floor of the library with 24/7 access for students and residents. This project’s advertising and evaluation focused on students using the lockers to step away from their devices while studying. Surveys were administered on paper ballots next to the charging station as well as via QR code on the equipment. 

Results 

Walking to Wellness with Underdesk Treadmills 
Unfortunately, there were few responses for the underdesk treadmill’s Intercollegiate Step Challenge survey and the information resulting from the surveys was incomplete and unclear. While the project team spoke to internal experts about ways to increase participation, responses remained low and the team was unable to declare a winner to the challenge. The few responses received seemed generally positive. 

Digital Disconnecting with Charging Locker 
Only four survey responses were submitted - two online and two paper surveys. While the low participation doesn’t allow for statistically significant extrapolations, all the responses received were extremely positive. Participants reported that they used the locker to take a break from their device, and doing so increased their productivity and decreased distraction. The responses indicated that the locker increased wellness through several facets as well as provided secure charging. In addition, the locker provided a good alternative to checking a charger out at the desk, especially for overnight unstaffed hours in the library’s 24/7 space.  

Discussion 

Releasing equipment in a physical space during the shutdown of libraries due to a global pandemic was the first difficulty the project team faced. The grant committee requested modifications to the projects to better promote social distancing and regular sanitization practices. When the library reopened, foot traffic was much lower than in previous years, less than 2% of the previous year’s visitor count. 

Though the response to the surveys was poor, the project team felt there was clear interest in wellness equipment in library spaces. Library employees shared anecdotes of seeing the equipment in use. The results from the Walking to Wellness survey demonstrated that the survey was too complicated and the Digital Disconnect survey had some initial flaws. Using these pilots, the project team brainstormed some new changes to future assessment questions. In response, the library’s wellness team has decided to evaluate the wellness spaces and equipment around the library in a new way.  

Initial results supported the project’s thesis that underdesk treadmills and charging lockers increased the wellness of users in library spaces through focus and stress relief. While further assessment is needed, library spaces can be configured to benefit the wellbeing of visitors. 

References: 

1. Schuna Jr JM, Swift DL, Hendrick CA, Duet MT, Johnson WD, Martin CK, Tudor-Locke C. Evaluation of a workplace treadmill desk intervention: a randomized controlled trial. JOEM. 2014;56(12):1266-1276. 

2. Yang X, Zhou Z, Liu Q, Fan C. Mobile phone addiction and adolescents’ anxiety and depression: the moderating role of mindfulness. J. Child Fam Stud. 2019;28(3):822–830.

 

DCT Featured Article - November 8, 2022


 
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