Your Circle of Wellness: The Road to Wellness Winds through Physical, Social, Environmental, Emotional, Intellectual, Spiritual, and Occupational Realms
Champ-Blackwell, Siobhan, Stokes, Henry, American Libraries
Ham says she grew up in a household full of smokers. "Both parents and every adult I knew were smokers; "even my older siblings started smoking by the time they started high school. I never did take up smoking myself, but I was definitely a chain second-hand smoker. My school participated in the physical fitness assessments each year, when children were tested on the number of sit-ups and chin-ups they could do, or if you were a girl, how long you could hang from the bar. The worst test for me was the 600-yard dash. Dashing is not what I did. I ran at my fastest pace, which was the slowest pace of all the other kids. Before long, my lungs would feel like they were on fire. Even though I had a normal weight, I was always the slowest kid. Even the overweight kids came in ahead of me. I also remember having a raspy voice and the burning feeling in my chest for a few days afterwards."
Other attempts at fitness were also catastrophes, says Ham. "I took swimming lessons, but could never learn how to keep water out of my nasal passages. I was terrified of the water. In the 6th grade, I went on an organized 10-mile bicycle ride for kids, and had to be given a ride home because my lungs and legs gave out."
In her early twenties, Ham met and later married "an outdoorsy type who loved rock climbing, mountain biking, wind surfing and other crazy sports." For many years, she tried to do some of his favorite sports, usually failing; other times she refused to participate altogether.
"My husband started running, and one day he received an ad for a marathon training program," says Ham. "By then I was about 40 years old and unhealthy. I decided to join the training program, just to start walking and jogging as a way to get in better shape. I had zero intentions of running a marathon. Long story short: The training program was geared to beginner couch potatoes like me, and before I knew it I was able to run a marathon! Okay, it took me a year and a half, but I eventually walked/ran my first marathon. What an amazing feeling to accomplish something that in my own mind had previously been an impossibility."
William Crowe, librarian at the University of Kansas in Lawrence, tells of a different kind of wellness journey, a lifelong struggle to achieve a normal weight and good health. "I can recall the whispers and snickering," he says. "There was the 4th-grade physical examination to be allowed to participate in sports, when I was found weigh 100 pounds, and my summary dismissal from the preinduction military draft physical screening at age 21, when I came in at 314 pounds."
There have been ups and downs in his weight over the years says Crowe, but mostly ups. "When I reached 300 pounds the last time, in mid-2000, and began to see the effects on my and my family's life, I knew that I had to take some decisive action."
In that same year, the University of Kansas began a team-based research project on weight management. "I was accepted as a subject, signed the protocols promising to follow the rules and submit all kinds of information about my behavior, and set off on the journey," says Crowe. "I was supported by my wife and daughter (both librarians!), friends across campus and around the country, colleagues at the KU Libraries, and by the other 'morbidly obese' folks who were in the study cohortto which I had been assigned. Losing weight was the easier (not easy) part; we simply had to follow the prescribed diet. Within 18 months, I was at target, coming in at 180 pounds."
"This quest has not been easy, and I have lost my way from time to time over the years," Crowe admits, "but I have learned--finally--that none of the journeys we take in life is without some stumble or setback. Today, I weigh 179 pounds what I need to do to stave off that weight gain: Stay on the path."
Talk to colleagues at your library and you will hear similar stories. Ham and Crowe's stories are published on"Join the Circle ofWellness @Your Library," awebsite developed as part of an initiative of ALA President Loriene Roy. Recognizing that librarians are wonderful at helping people, find answers to questions, whether it be for a home-work assignment or learning about a newly diagnosed illness, Roy asked, "How can we create 'Wellness in the Workplace' initiatives at our libraries, and so assist each other on our wellness journeys?"
Under Roy's guidance, a taskforce composed of public, medical, and special librarians developed an action plan for assisting librarians in creating and maintaining health initiatives at work. The task force's goals were: the launch of the "Wellness" website, the development of apersonalhealth"passport"forALA members, the creation of a workplace inventory that could be used by and at libraries to review working conditions that might impact worker health, and a Wellness Fair to be held at the 2008 ALAAnnual Conference this summer in Anaheim (see sidebar). The Workplace Wellness Inventory and Wellness Passport are both available on the website.
Ted Chaffin of the Strozier Library at Florida State University; Sara Jeffress of the Tuzzy Consortium Library, Barrow, Alaska; Jennifer Turner of the Luise V. Hanson Library at Waldorf College; Laura Warren-Gross of the Maple Street Magnet School for the Arts, in Kalamazoo, Michigan; Joanne Marshall, professor at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill; Lynne Ring of Fort Bend County (Tex.) Libraries; and Kelli Ham worked on creating the wellness tools and events, along with us, the authors. This work was supported with input from the entire ALA Wellness in the Workplace Taskforce.
Many workplace health programs focus only on the physical aspect of wellness. In contrast, the cohort identified seven aspects of wellness that they strived to include in all the work they did: physical, social, environmental, emotional, intellectual, spiritual, and occupational. Jeffress explained, "We are trying to convey to the profession the importance of good practices, not only physical, for employees and employers to improve workplace wellness and increase job satisfaction."
The Workplace Wellness Inventory can be used to assess perceptions of health at your library by answering questions pertaining to the seven types of wellness and then using the results to make changes at your workplace. The inventory poses questions about physical and environmental wellness issues: How often are employees encouraged to take breaks and move about throughout the day? How healthy are the snacks in the vending machines? How ergonomic are the furnishings? It also asks about the less-analyzed components of wellness, such as the emotional, social, and occupational: Does library management take time to establish relationships with all employees? Do employees feel their work is valued? Are cultural and professional development available and encouraged?
Wellness is like a journey, so it may be helpful to have a "passport" with you. The Wellness Passport is a booklet designed to help individuals monitor their personal health each week through daily checks in all seven areas of wellness with the intention of creating a balance. At the end of each week, one can rate one's overall wellness. The passport is an excellent way to set fitness, nutrition, and personal/time management goals.
The task force's third initiative, the website, hosts news, tools, and stories related to workplace wellness. You can read inspiring stories called Wellness Journeys, like those of Ham and Crowe, and submit your own story. The web site features a section on workplace wellness in the news as well as a place to turn for reliable online resource and tools such as the Wellness Passport and Workplace Wellness Inventory. The design of the site incorporates traditional motifs of the Ojibwe tribe as a tribute to Roy's American Indian heritage; it will be maintained by ALA's Allied Professional Association beginning in July.
The task force has already heard from librarians who have found ways to incorporate tools and resources from the website into their workplace. Sally Patrick from the Eccles Health Sciences Library in Salt Lake City writes, "The Circle of Wellness is well ... wonderful! Thanks so much for championing it; what masterful serendipity and so needed everywhere." From the Medical Center Library at Saint Louis University, Mary Krieger writes, "I just joined the Wellness Committee at my institution and I found some great resources that I can share with the committee!"
Of his Wellness Journey, William Crowe states so eloquently, "The encouragement of the people around me, not least from other library people, has been vitally important. Library people's shared interest in helping others has never been so clear to me. We do value connecting people with information--from traditional sources to the everyday quiet interactions we have with others--all to encourage the seeker after knowledge to persist in the journey. That journey, I joke--and a sense of humor is essential--will end for me only when I expire, but I am told that my 'due date' has been extended-by at least 10 years."
Are there journeys taking place at your library? Do you already have a workplace wellness program? If so, visit the website and share your story with others and find materials to supplement your initiative. If not, start with the Wellness Inventory and learn where you can begin to improve the quality of your work life. Create your own "Circle of Wellness @ your library"
RELATED ARTICLE: JUMP IN
A Wellness Fair will be held in the exhibit hall during the 2008 ALA Annual Conference in Anaheim (see p. 62) on Sunday, June 29, from 10:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. There will be two separate sites for the health fair, so don't miss either. On the exhibit floor will be a space for vendors with health-related products, a space with posters from librarians across the country sharing the health initiatives in their libraries, a place to play the popular video game Dance Dance Revolution, and a spot to meet the Anaheim White House Restaurant chef Bruno Serato and watch him prepare two dishes. Nearby will be an exercise pavilion, where you can learn relaxation tips and practice chair yoga, seated pilates, and hula dancing, in classes rotating every 30 minutes.
"I used to be afraid." So begins Kelli Ham's story of her journey to wellness. Consumer health librarian for the Pacific Southwest Regional Medical Library in Los Angeles, Ham says, "I was afraid to try almost anything that involved physical activity--hiking, skiing, playing softball, anything. I was afraid because I knew how hard physically it would be for me to do the activity. It may seem strange to think about an emotion like fear and the notion of wellness, or not being well. However, my path to wellness hinged on overcoming my fears."…
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Publication information: Article title: Your Circle of Wellness: The Road to Wellness Winds through Physical, Social, Environmental, Emotional, Intellectual, Spiritual, and Occupational Realms. Contributors: Champ-Blackwell, Siobhan - Author, Stokes, Henry - Author. Magazine title: American Libraries. Volume: 39. Issue: 6 Publication date: June-July 2008. Page number: 52+. © 1984 American Library Association. COPYRIGHT 2008 Gale Group.
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