Living a healthier lifestyle is something many people attempt to do. However, it is not always easy to make the lifestyle changes towards improving overall health because of challenges such as time, money and resources.

Public libraries are a great resource to use when embarking on this journey to healthiness. They have dedicated volunteers, classes, and programs that can help patrons with improving their physical, mental and social health.

In this post, you will find out how public libraries can help improve physical, mental and social health.

Physical Health

Regular exercise and eating healthy are, of course, important to living a healthy lifestyle, but how can public libraries help in this area? Many public libraries have exercise programs where you can work out for free or a minimal cost.

For example, Farmingdale Public Library in New York offers their library patrons workout classes such as Yoga, Tai Chi, Pilates and more. This not only allows library patrons access to physical activity, but also exposes patrons to certain exercise classes or programs that they may have never experienced before.

The other aspect of physical health is eating healthy and learning about what proper eating habits entail. Public libraries can improve patrons’ overall health-based literacy and help with patrons’ nutrition plans. This is done at the Houston Public Library where the library partners with Texas A&M to offer free nutrition classes. Here, patrons can learn how to prepare healthy meals, read food labels and select healthy food if they are on a budget. The program at the Houston Public Library was called Healthy L.I.F.E (Literacy Initiative For Everyone) which looks to empower and equip families with knowledge and resources for healthy living.

As demonstrated in both of these examples, public libraries can provide a great resource in helping library visitors with their physical health and well-being.

Mental Health

An area of health that in recent years has begun to get the exposure and attention it deserves when discussing healthy lifestyles, is that of mental health. As important as it is to have consistent physical exercise and to choose healthy food options, it is equally important to be mentally healthy.  Public libraries provide help in this area too by having sections in the library dedicated to mental health awareness throughout their collection. The Nashville Public Library recognised the need to spread awareness and provide information to online and community resources for their patrons, so they could reach out for professional assistance if desired. The Nashville Public Library also dedicated two months to spreading mental health awareness where they displayed books and local resources for patrons to read or take with them. The mental health awareness was promoted in six of their branches.

The North Warwickshire & South Leicestershire College library provided its patrons with access to printable downloads that give advice on topics such as stress, family, mindfulness and more.

In a 2017 post by the International federation of library associations (IFLA), there was a discussion on mental health and libraries where it is mentioned that a growing number of doctors are prescribing books for people with mental… Click To Tweet

Like most issues, there is never an easy solution and it’s usually a mix of things that help in overcoming a problem. Taking advantage of the resources libraries offer can be a great way to learn and develop strong mental health habits. You can read more about this in a previous blog post of ours.

Another great example of this is what CILIP (the UK Library Association) promoted with Libraries Week 2018 where the primary focus was on promoting healthy wellbeing. Last year, thousands of libraries across the UK demonstrated how libraries play a part in improving and supporting peoples well being by bringing communities together.

Social Health

The social aspect of a healthy lifestyle has some overlap with both physical and mental health. However, it is an important area to highlight, as it may sometimes be forgotten that a healthy social life is also important. Enjoying the company of friends and family is vital for overall health.

According to an enlightening interview with Henrik Jochumsen by Systematic on Libraries, a library is an important space to meet people. Jochumsen mentions libraries are more of an important space for communication now than ever before. He discusses that even with decreasing lending rates, the number of visitors to the library has increased. He believes that the number of visitors increasing could be from more people being able to work remotely, which could cause a feeling of isolation when people work from home.

libraries are more of an important space for communication now than ever before. He discusses that even with decreasing lending rates, the number of visitors to the library has increased. Click To Tweet

Many libraries provide classes or activities that allow patrons to meet and interact with like-minded people. For example, Lodi Public Library in Wisconsin has the Lodi photo club, Artful Adults, and Crochet Club, where people who are interested in these activities can meet once a month. This is a great way for patrons to learn a new skill or indulge in a hobby, while potentially meeting and making new friends at their local library.

Socializing and avoiding isolation is an important dynamic in many people’s lives and some argue that is why social media has grown as large as it has. However, not every person feels comfortable socializing or meeting new people, and this is where libraries can help. They provide a place where you can learn about and participate in social activities together, developing several skills at once.

Pelham Public Library in Canada hosts a coffee club where library visitors can go to enjoy free coffee and desserts while meeting new people.

Libraries bring it all together

Libraries provide information, resources and space for the public to learn about and obtain improvements in all aspects of health, at a low cost or no cost at all. This opportunity for people to access a single place with the tools to help them achieve a healthy lifestyle in all three areas (physical, mental and social) is what makes libraries so instrumental and unique.

We will be back next week with another interesting article from the library world!

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