What Do Meatpackers and Librarians Have in Common? Library Related Injuries and Possible Solutions
Kaehr, Robert E., Teacher Librarian
POPULAR OPINION SUGGESTS THAT LIBRARIANS ARE A SEDENTARY BUNCH WITH LITTLE PHYSICAL REQUIREMENTS BEYOND LIFTING A FEW BOOKS AND OCCASIONALLY MOVING A CHAIR, THE STEREOTYPE GOES WAY BEYOND THAT IN THE MEDIA TO IMPLYING THAT LIBRARIANS ARE "BI-FOCAL WEARING BUNHEADS, COLLECTORS OF CARDIGAN SWEATERS, MIDDLE-AGED WOMEN IN POLYESTER SUITS, NATURALIZER SHOES, AND BAGGY STOCKINGS--WE'RE SMART, NERDY, NO NONSENSEY, AND OF COURSE BOOKISH" (BELBEN, 2004, p, 38),
Well, that is not true for many librarians, except for the smart and, hopefully, the bookish parts. Ask Cathy Belben, who as a teacher-librarian (recently turned writer), rode her bike 20 miles to school, ran in local races, and played basketball against the students (2004). Cathy Belben has been a real, live "Nancy Pearl" action figure.
Then there was the contrary case of Brenda Crotts, a California technical services librarian. She definitely defied the stereotype of wimpy librarian. Brenda, an avid bodybuilder and belly dancer with over 40 marathons under her belt, certainly has stood outside the box of stereotypical librarians (Crotts, 1985).
Houston library's active librarians exercised during lunchtime to the rhythms of Jane Fonda's videos ("Jane" 983). If you prefer a slower pace, however, you might want to join the activities of a group of librarians who defied the stereotype by exercising in yoga classes at Pueblo, Colorado. Their director started the classes with a trained expert after having read about a public works department that began doing yoga to relieve stress. Pueblo found the stretches and movements of the training left their library team with less stress or stiffness, and more energy (Lee, 2000).
Regarding work-related physical injuries, these library folk will likely be minimally affected since they are in semi-athletic condition. Whether men or women, librarians are generally like others in similar professions, when it comes to physical fitness. Some stay fit and some do not. Nonetheless, much of the work of today's librarian and staff is repetitive and involves small muscles. Lifting of course is an exception, and there is plenty to lift in most libraries. Because of the nature of library work, it is common to see carpal-tunnel, neck strain, and back injuries. According to Anne Turner, Director of Libraries at Santa Cruz City-County Library System, librarians were more likely to have musculoskeletal disorders than other careers (Turner, 2004).
In our library over recent years, we have had a case of a serious torn tendon, which required continuing physical therapy over several months: a severe case of stiff neck, and a student worker who needed medical attention for a strained back from lifting.
There is little library literature that deals with musculoskeletal injuries. A few articles deal with ergonomics and injuries while articles on prevention through exercise are nearly non-existent. Exercise as a means of prevention for some of the most common library-related injuries is the focus of this article. Physical exercise will prevent or curtail the effects of most of these injuries.
From personal experience, I found almost complete relief from neck strain by doing some simple exercises given to me by my chiropractor, Dr. Steven Geders of Huntington, IN. First, I should mention that I have not been a big fan of chiropractic medicine. Nevertheless, I must admit that I now thoroughly believe using the home exercises Geders gave me improved my life significantly. The stiff neck issue was resolved through exercise.
I developed a stiff neck nearly 2 years ago. It seems the reason was work related. I use two monitor screens in my office. One screen is next to the other. I often sat with poor posture, a bit slumped and twisted to the side, to see one of the monitors. I frequently found myself propping my chin on my hand with my elbow on the desk while reading the monitor. …