Wellness Tips

Libraries’ resources and collections highlight student health, wellness topics

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — In 2019, employees at the Penn State Berks Thun Library noticed an escalation of anonymous responses on library student engagement boards relating to mental health challenges. Topics ranged from substance use issues and time management, to sleep quality and motivational challenges. Inspired to offer assistance, librarians sprung to action, collaborating with Berks Campus Counseling Services to create the Wellness Collection at Berks Thun Library.  

As a top-10 academic research library, Penn State University Libraries has long helped students discover, evaluate and utilize information necessary for attaining academic success. But the University Libraries also curates collections and resources that can help students build positive mental health and wellness habits for future success.

The student responses at Berks Thun Library coincided with research conducted by the American College Health Association — that more than half of today’s college students report sadness, anxiety or are overwhelmed at some time during their studies. But research also shows that tools such as leisure and recreational reading can decrease perceived stress, blood pressure and heart rates, and might be beneficial for improving mental health and well-being.

“Reading for fun is a great way for students to decompress from the stresses of everyday life,” said Monica Gingerich, coordinator of student experience and engagement for Library Learning Services. She said the University Libraries’ Leisure Reading collection provides a diverse selection of new and rotating fiction and nonfiction titles to browse, in various locations throughout Pattee and Paterno Libraries and other campus locations, via the Libraries Catalog. In addition, a growing collection of leisure e-books and audiobooks is available to download through the Libby app.

At Berks Thun Library, a whole-student approach is the foundation of their wellness collection, which has grown to more than 300 titles and covers an array of topics that address students’ well-being concerns, said Alexandra Chisholm, reference and instruction librarian for the campus library.

“The collection is in direct proximity to our new Sensory Room and thus gets a lot of foot traffic from folks seeking a restorative environment,” said Chisholm, who added that the collection is located in a secluded area of the library to facilitate private browsing and intentionally limit staff observation. A nearby display features rotating topics from the collection such as financial, social, nutritional and sexual wellness.  

At the Penn State Beaver Campus Library, a Wellness Collection was created to highlight students’ exploration of the mind-body connection, increase overall well-being, and improve learning outcomes, said Amy Deuink, head librarian for the Penn State Beaver Campus Library.

“The Wellness Collection brings together — in one place and organized thematically for ease of browsing — practical ‘self-help’ books on personal care, mental health, wellness and learning,” Deuink said.

Deuink said the Beaver Campus Library also encourages recreational reading for stress relief with a community-wide Beaver Reading Challenge, in celebration of reading for fun that builds healthy habits through setting personal reading goals and tracking progress.

Though each Penn State University Libraries campus location has individualized resources and collections, titles from any leisure reading or wellness collection across University Libraries can be accessed through the Libraries’ catalog, regardless of their physical location, and can be checked out to any individual with a current Penn State user ID.

To get started enjoying e-books, audiobooks and more on your phone or tablet, download the Libby app and sign in with your Penn State Account user ID and passwordor click here for more tips and additional information.

Supplemental LibGuides and related resources for a variety of student health and wellness topics are available at at following links:

  • Penn State University Libraries Personal Health and Mental Wellness LibGuide, intended for students, faculty, and staff who have an interest in personal health and mental wellness.
  • Penn State University Libraries Health LibGuide, for health information by subject and course guides.
  • Digital Wellness Workshop, part of the Penn State Berks Privacy Workshop Series and Paws for Success Workshop Series.
  • Wellness at Penn State Berks Thun Library, to support students’ knowledge, skill development and habit formation in areas such as physical, mental, emotional and spiritual wellness; relationship building; time management; self-sustenance; and other ‘adulting’ concerns.
  • De-stress Fest offers stress-reducing games and activities to help students relax as they study for exams and complete end-of-semester papers and projects. Fall 2023 De-stress Fest takes place at various branch locations across University Park campus between Tuesday, Dec. 5, and Thursday, Dec. 14. For more information about De-Stress Fest, contact Megan Gilpin at [email protected].

“University Libraries wellness collections acknowledge issues experienced by many college students but are not intended to replace professional counseling or medical treatment offered elsewhere on campus,” said Deuink. Students in distress who need someone to talk to are encouraged to contact Counseling and Psychological Services and visit Student Affairs’ Mental Health Services and Support webpage for additional resources. 

To learn more about the University Libraries Student Wellness Fund, contact Gretchen Little, assistant director of Alumni and Donor Relations, Penn State University Libraries, at [email protected]

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