Enhancing Student Wellbeing Through Recreational Reading Zones in an Academic Library: A Student-Centred Project

Academic libraries traditionally have a primary focus in supporting teaching, learning, and research by providing access to academic resources including textbooks and electronic databases. Budget constraints means that there is limited scope for collection development of recreational reading titles, despite recreational reading often being cited as beneficial to an individual’s mental health and wellbeing.

The University of Adelaide Library is committed to supporting the University’s key strategy of promoting positive mental health and wellbeing of students and so has provided dedicated recreational reading zones at our North Terrace and Roseworthy campuses. These zones are informal student spaces containing non-academic print books in both fiction and non-fiction. Their purpose is to provide a space away from the traditional academic purpose of a university library where students can relax, unwind, and take a break from the stressors of university life through leisure reading. In 2023, the Library was awarded funding to enhance the recreational reading zones of both campuses including the purchase of new books and furniture.

Prior to this project, the collection had not received any funding for any significant purchase of books since 2018 and was bolstered mostly via donations, and as a result, the collection was outdated, underutilised with poor circulation figures, and followed no selection criteria in receiving donations and did not reflect the preferences of the student body. The funding was granted to the Library on the condition that students were involved in the selection of new titles. By providing students with the opportunity to have their say on what books they would like in the collection, the Library was able to curate a collection that better reflects the student population. At the time of writing this abstract, new book purchases are only just arriving and being placed in the collection and the Library is eager to embark on a marketing campaign to promote the new arrivals.

At the time of the conference, almost eight months will have passed, and the Library will be able to see if there has been an impact on circulation or if there is greater student engagement with the spaces.

Lana DiStefano

Academic Support Librarian, University of Adelaide

Author Bio

Lana DiStefano (she/her) is an Academic Support Librarian at the University of Adelaide. Lana is an early career librarian with experience working across public, school, and academic libraries. In 2022, she was the inaugural winner of the Australian School Library Association’s Library Advocate Award and in 2020 was awarded the ALIA Prize on completion of her Master of Information Management (Library and Information Management). Lana was a speaker at the 2021 SLASA conference and spends much of her current work preparing and presenting workshops to students on using the library to aid their research and study. Lana has experience in developing a student-led library collection at a newly established secondary school and through this project, adapted her selection methods to meet the needs of an academic, higher education setting.