Here at DMU Library, in the summer of 2016, we began to investigate and understand more about the potential of our collections to improve the wellbeing of our customers – both students and staff. While we had plenty of books, journals and other resources available specifically to support study, we had no collection specifically focussed on maintaining wellbeing. So, we bought a small collection of about 350 books – mostly novels – which we popped into a dedicated area in the library, very near the entrance to the building.
Although a growing, but still small collection, this leisure reading material has the potential to make a big impact on the lives of our readers. Books are for use: you can snuggle down in one of the library’s comfy seats; read your book over a cup of coffee in the library café, or borrow the book to take home and read.
Over the last five years, we have developed the collection further, and the shelving has been replaced with more appealing, less ‘academic library-like’ shelving! We now have nearly 1600 titles in the collection. As the collection began to increase, our simple alphabetical by author shelf sequence was no longer useful, so we have arranged the items in the collection by discrete genres, using schemes that are familiar and used in public libraries, and we’ve posted finding aids in strategic places amongst the books. Saving the time of the reader and connecting them quickly with reading material.
We’ve also used the shelving to promote certain areas of the collection in support of international and national initiatives, like World Book Day, and National Libraries week. Every book has a reader.
We have also showcased parts of our collection in support of our institutional initiatives like #DMUpride, #HealthyDMU and Decolonising DMU. For every reader there is a book in our collection.
This small collection is so much more than a collection of books, and through our online guide to the collection we’ve been able to signpost to wider collections, both within and outside of the university.
We’ve linked items and subjects in the collection to other similar items in the main library collection: novels, plays and poetry; books related to wellbeing – health, exercise, craft, sport and so on; books on effective studying and things like money management.
Our space to house the physical collection is limited, and we know not everyone can visit the collection at the moment, so we’ve linked through to collections of online books, forged a relationship with the local public library service, which our readers are able to join, and highlighted the network of public libraries across the country for those who are not able to visit our campus.
As well as connecting readers with other books, we’ve also encouraged them to share their experience of reading something from the collection with others.
Our online book review form is easy to use, and guidelines are provided on what makes for a useful review. Once submitted, reviews are posted on the online guide to the Leisure Reading Collection.
When all library staff are able to work back on campus, we shall be working on some physical linkage from those other collections elsewhere in the building to genres and items in the Leisure Reading Collection. We will seek to provide texts in a wider variety of languages, and we will continue to promote our collection and support international, national, regional and DMU initiatives. A library is a growing organism.