Northwestern Atrium photo by Christopher Nofal

Promoting Wellness and Healthy Habits in Academic Law Libraries

As the temperature drops and cramming for exams commences, the stress of law school often causes students to develop unhealthy behaviors and habits. Law libraries can use their space to help students remain healthy and motivated during this busy and overwhelming time.

Sunlight & Solitude

Natural light improves mood and productivity.[1] The layout of the Northwestern Pritzker Legal Research Center allows for lots of natural light to come in by many study areas. Several large tables and comfortable chairs are positioned next to windows to allow students to soak up some Vitamin D while hard at work. The natural light hopefully counteracts some of the adverse effects of the harsh fluorescent lights throughout the law school. Libraries lacking windows could consider getting a SAD lamp or two to help students get through the long winter months.

If a moment of peace and quiet is needed instead, we also have a dedicated meditation and prayer room that any student is welcome to use. Any room can be turned into a meditation and prayer room. Our room is nothing fancy—it’s a tiny room that has blinds on the door for privacy and a few etiquette guidelines.

Creativity & Community

A selection of artwork by some very talented law students at Northwestern Pritzker School of Law.

We encourage students to take short study breaks and have scattered some stress relief activities throughout the library. Coloring sheets and colored pencils are always available to give students the opportunity to relax and refill their creative wells. In our government documents room, we also have a communal jigsaw puzzle laid out on a large table. All students are invited to work on this puzzle whenever they have a free moment.

Recommendations for free printable coloring pages:

Exercise & Energy

Treadmill desks and bike desks allow students to stay active while studying. We have four of these desks lined up on the third floor of the library by a large window overlooking the lake. The maximum speed of a treadmill desk is three or four miles per hour, so it is relatively quiet and does not disturb other studying students. In addition to the physical health benefits of exercise, walking can also improve creative thinking.[2]

Photo 2: Librarian Clare Willis gets in some steps as she grades papers for Advanced Legal Research.

Students are permitted to eat and drink in our library. In the past, we have set out some healthy snacks, including granola bars and fruit snacks, during reading period to help students keep their energy up. Year-round, our library also offers hand sanitizer, Lysol wipes, and tissues at the circulation desk to prevent illnesses from spreading.

Many law students spend a significant amount of their time at law school in the law library. Libraries should always be on the lookout for ways to help make the environment more welcoming, comfortable, and conducive to productive studying.

Endnotes

[1] Mihyang An et al., Why We Need More Nature at Work: Effects of Natural Elements and Sunlight on Employee Mental Health and Work Attitudes, PLOS ONE (2016), https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4877070/pdf/pone.0155614.pdf.

[2] Marily Oppezzo & Daniel L. Schwartz, Give Your Idea Some Legs: The Positive Effect of Walking on Creative Thinking, 40 J. Experimental Psychol.: Learning, Memory, and Cognition 1142 (2014).