Confinement, health measures and fear of contamination, of loved ones or of oneself, all linked to Covid, have a definite effect on mental health. In this area, libraries can do a lot for students, shows a study of activities undertaken by UK university libraries in recent months.
Andrew Cox and Liz Brewster, two researchers at the University of Sheffield and Lancaster University, respectively, looked at the actions libraries have taken to communicate with students since the start of the pandemic, the resources offered and support for well-being and health.
A questionnaire of twenty questions was sent to various British university libraries last May, a few weeks after a peak in infections in the United Kingdom. All the establishments then closed their doors, and the link maintained with users was therefore purely virtual. 53 completed questionnaires, representing a total of 50 institutions, were used for this study.
Even before the pandemic, university libraries had the well-being of students at heart, through a variety of more or less original actions. Recommendations for personal development books, cards and posters inviting you to take a break, a physical space dedicated to well-being in the establishment, or even contact with a pet that is part of these operations.
For 46% of the libraries that responded, these activities were part of the general strategy of the university, or, for 20%, they responded to a request from the students themselves. For a very large majority, these actions were implemented to come to calm the anxiety and the concerns of the students, but also to reinforce the feeling of belonging to the university establishment.
Documentary support during the pandemic
Given the academic nature of libraries, their primary concern was to maintain access to digital educational resources (90%). But the dissemination of reassuring messages on social networks (88%) or the cancellation of fines (85%). There are also small attentions such as reporting online resources, especially audiovisual (65%) or books on well-being (60%).
The library’s website, networks like Twitter, Facebook and Instagram were the most commonly used communication channels.
48% of libraries report thank you messages, in return, and 48% are happy with the number of accesses to the resources presented. However, 28% of respondents report that they do not assess the success of their wellness activities.
The researchers note that libraries can serve the well-being of students through different types of activities: those relating to the usual missions of libraries, by creating new, tailor-made services in the reception of students, within buildings, but also by pointing out services offered by other institutions, within or outside the university.
The entire study, in English, is available at this address.
Photographie : illustration, IMCBerea College, CC BY 2.0