Finding professional development graduate classes can be a difficult task in our profession. Not many approved universities or district classes offer specific courses for school librarians. Sometimes I feel like I’m pulling at straws to make courses fit my job. The most recent course I took was on anxiety awareness. It was so relevant and connected to our jobs that I was compelled to write about it this month.
Our school library has always been a beacon for those with anxiety. A safe space to calm and center our thoughts. At times it’s a space to be with friends or to find a quiet space alone. Since returning to school I have seen an influx of teens struggling with anxiety. Mostly social anxieties but school work and separation anxieties as well. Our counseling office previously had a place for students to wait to see a social worker or counselor, but due to COVID restrictions they no longer have this area. Now when students are anxious they are coming to the library to wait to talk to someone.
After taking this anxiety awareness course one of the tools I found to be the most useful in the library were the mindfulness resources. They were fast, simple, and could be done anywhere. One of the easiest resources I found with students was this “Daily Calm” video. I created a QR code for students to scan with their phone to access it quickly. Quick 10-minute exercises have really helped my teens. For next year, I am considering mapping out a “Calming Corner” or “Mindful Space” for students to use for this purpose.
The continuing work that I need to do in this area is curating resources for my teens. When I looked at my collection I found that I only had ONE book on anxiety! I have started creating a resource list on Titlewave for my fall purchases to address this. I would then place these resources in the “Calming Corner” for students who need them. I also plan on incorporating other resources such as more QR codes with breathing exercises, calming nature sounds, and guided meditations.
As the final project for the course I created a workshop that I could put on in the library for students. You can review the outline I created for this workshop. My hope is that I can actually put on this workshop next school year once COVID restrictions decrease schools. My ideal time would be to offer this workshop prior to finals in each semester.
Understanding and empathy is a huge part of a responsive library for students. Through this professional development I felt like I learned a lot about how I can support my students. I have always seen our library spaces as an offering of resources book related and not. This anxiety course has helped me broaden my thinking about what a library space can provide and how we can offer support.
Author: Elizabeth Pelayo
Elizabeth Pelayo is the library media specialist at St. Charles East High School in St. Charles Illinois. She currently writes book reviews for School Library Journal. She is a member of the AASL AAUP Book Selection Committee. Also, she is a member of the nominations committee for the ISLMA Abraham Lincoln Book Award.