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Mindfulness in the Library

by on November 2, 2017

After suffering from burnout for a while, I took a professional development course on mindfulness through ALA’s Online Learning platform. I heard a lot about mindfulness meditation but never practiced it. I was in a difficult state but I am improving little by little. Taking the course, called Mindfulness for Librarians, helped me a lot. I want to share a few of the things I learned along the way. First of all, “mindfulness” is “the basic human ability to be fully present, aware of where we are and what we’re doing, and not overly reactive or overwhelmed by what’s going on around us.”[1] As I learned in this class, it means being present in the moment, being kind to yourself and others, and being proactive instead of reactive. Doing breathing exercises is a big part of mindfulness as well. Whether you’re new to the profession and it hasn’t turned out the way you expected, or you’re a long time librarian who is tired out, trying mindfulness can help you cope with the challenges of library work.

One point to remember is you’re not alone! One thing I struggle with is less than positive (and sometimes just plain rude) patron interactions or behaviors. It helped me to hear and share stories of such interactions and learn from other people’s approaches to these situations. The ability to understand and name what you’re thinking and feeling also helps. Whether its burnout or compassion fatigue, learning about it increases self-awareness. I was experiencing a bit of both, so being able to define the issue put me on the path to trying to fix it. Another worthwhile technique is job crafting. You may already be doing this, but it involves looking at aspects of your job that you enjoy and finding ways to include more of it in your work. It also means doing housekeeping or mundane tasks to help you regroup after a flurry of activity. I finish an easy task (like putting paper in the copiers) if I need to take a breather and re-focus. I also learned about some useful apps that can help. Headspace, Calm, and Relax Meditation are just a few that are available. They contain exercises for meditation and breathing. I really like the Calm app, which includes free sleep stories that help you fall asleep and relax before bedtime. You can also practice mindful walking or mindful eating, which is discussed in The Mindful Librarian by Richard Moniz (see link below). Whatever method you choose, the concept of mindfulness and practicing it consistently can help you manage your stress.

More mindfulness resources:

The Mindful Librarian by Richard Moniz, et al. (*used in the mindfulness course above)

Mindful Librarianship by Ellyn Ruhlman in AL Direct


Mindfulness for Healthy Living created by the online MSW at USC


[1] “Mindfulness: Getting Started,” Mindful.orghttps://www.mindful.org/meditation/mindfulness-getting-started/

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