Academic libraries support student well-being in a number of ways


The academic journey can be a stressful one.

According to the Lumina Foundation-Gallup 2024 State of Higher Education Study, based on a web survey with 14,032 current and prospective college students, 35% of college students in the United States report they have considered leaving their program in the past six months.

The primary reason students give for leaving higher education? Their well-being, with 54% reporting emotional stress and 43% citing mental health reasons.

"Alarming rates" of mental-health distress

This aligns with a Harvard University report that we previously cited, which suggested that young adults — specifically those who are members of Generation Z — are experiencing emotional struggles at "alarming rates".

The Harvard study compared the mental-health struggles of young adults (aged 18 to 25) with those reported by teens (aged 14 to 17). According to the Executive Summary, young adults report roughly twice the rates of anxiety and depression as teens.

Compared to 18% of teens, a whopping 36% of young adults in our survey reported anxiety; in contrast to 15% of teens, 29% of young adults reported depression. Far too many young adults report that they feel on edge, lonely, unmoored, directionless, and that they worry about financial security. Many are “achieving to achieve” and find little meaning in either school or work. Yet these struggles of young adults have been largely off the public radar.

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Academic libraries can support student wellness

The good news is that university and college students who are struggling have an incredible resource at their disposal: their local academic library.

It is important to note, however, that while many academic libraries can provide safe spaces and offer access to information about mental health and wellness in general (and some may have staff trained in Mental Health First Aid), this is not a replacement for the expertise that certified doctors and mental health professionals can provide. People struggling with depression, anxiety or other mental or physical health issues should seek professional help when possible.

Supporting student success in several ways

We have previously explored the ways that librarians can contribute to the academic success of college and university students. It turns out that they can support student mental health and physical well-being in a similar way, by pointing library users in the direction of helpful materials in the library's own collection and also connecting them with community wellness initiatives and mental-health resources on campus.

James Madison University librarian Liz Cheveney conducted a survey and interviewed campus library workers for her 2023 research article titled "Librarians’ Roles in Supporting Students’ Mental Health Through Teaching Practices".

Partnerships supporting student mental health

In that article, she writes:

Many participants noted that as library workers we already make regular referrals to resources or other parts of campus as a part of our regular work and providing those connections in support of students’ wellness is a good fit.

To facilitate this collaborative work, university libraries can establish partnerships with campus health services to provide integrated support for students' physical and mental well-being. In addition to referrals, this collaboration might include joint programming and sharing resources related to mental-health support and overall health and wellness.

Promoting health through mindfulness

Mindfulness practices have been shown to have benefits for mental health and physical wellness. They can also help practitioners develop their attention and focus skills.

Librarians can help by creating a physical space that is conducive to mindfulness. For our Future of Libraries report in 2022, PressReader spoke with Elif Tinaztepe, a partner and design principal at Schmidt Hammer Lassen Architects, about how to improve library design.

She reminded us that while a library is a place to learn, to work and to meet others, it is also a place to just be. Being in the present moment is, of course, one of the core tenets of most mindfulness practices.

Asking the right questions

Tinaztepe told us that the important questions to ask when thinking about library design include:

How might we design safe and welcoming meeting spaces to support gender equality? Spaces where regardless of ability or disability, everybody has the same level of quality of experience? Can we also support mental fitness in the way we design spaces, with the way we bring daylight in, with the way we make it comfortable and safe for people? 

To address these needs, libraries might look at incorporating cozy reading areas, comfortable seating and well-lit study spaces. Ergonomic furniture can help reduce physical strain during long study sessions.

To encourage mindfulness, library staff might designate a quiet and peaceful area within the library for meditation and contemplative practices. Create a space where patrons can engage in mindfulness techniques without distractions. Provide comfortable seating, soft lighting and perhaps even ambient sounds to enhance the experience.

Providing access to the right information

One key way that libraries can support student wellness is by providing access to reputable health databases, books and online resources covering topics such as nutrition, exercise, mental health and stress management.  

Academic librarians can’t offer medical advice, but (as we noted earlier) they can help students by pointing them to the appropriate sources of information. By adopting new digital platforms that help them share information with their patrons, university libraries keep their communities informed and educated. 

Among the 7,000-plus international newspapers and magazines to be found on the world’s largest digital newsstand, PressReader has a number of publications that focus on health and wellness. (We highlighted just a handful of them in a blog post focusing on Health Literacy Month last October.)

How PressReader enriches the student experience


Students can also use PressReader to relieve some of their academic stress by using it to explore their favorite topics, from fashion and food to music and art. With a vast range of different subjects to choose from, PressReader has something to enrich every curious mind and empower readers to activate their passions.

With publications from over 120 countries in dozens of languages, PressReader lets international students to keep up with the news back home and the platform's translation features enables them to read (almost) any publication in their native language.

A platform for mental health resources

While librarians themselves can not provide mental-health services, they can take a proactive approach and create a dedicated webpage or online portal where students can access resources such as articles on common mental-health issues, recommended self-care apps and information on the institution's own wellness initiatives.

For examples, many academic libraries use PressReader’s Self-Pub feature to share their own content. They can digitize and upload their own newsletters, announcements and other publications to the front page of PressReader to further engage with library users by providing them with info about library services and campus resources that can support students dealing with academic stress and other mental health challenges.

An investment in student success

When libraries make an investment in digital tools that support student wellness, they are really investing in student success and contributing to the holistic development of a campus culture that addresses the needs of the whole student.

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