For the last few weeks at my university, we have been doing a wellness challenge. This involves walking 50,000 steps a week, and many people from my library, and my team specifically, are participating.
I didn’t realize until I started this challenge that I am super competitive! Like many librarian jobs, my job is fairly sedentary, so I started thinking about the different ways I could increase my steps during the day. I then remembered a conversation I had somewhere in the middle of Latvia during Cycling for Libraries with the inspiring Åke Nygren of the Stockholm Public Library. The details are a little fuzzy (Forgive me, Åke! Maybe you can add more details in the comments?) but basically I remember that he had organized a walking meeting at a conference, and I thought at the time what a genius idea! To walk and talk about ideas with your colleagues. During Cycling for Libraries I found that I had the most inspirational and reveltory conversations while biking alongside fellow librarians, so that experience had shown me how creativity flourished and ideas flowed when you talked about work while exercising at the same time.
So, I decided to try implementing walking meetings at at my library with members of my team who I thought would initially be the most receptive, and it has been amazing! We have a mile long trail around our campus, so our meetings last the 20 minutes it takes to walk the trail. Along the way we talk about work, we talk about ideas and solutions to some of our challenges, and we chat about things going on in our personal lives.
Walking next to each other as opposed to sitting across a desk, completely changes the power dynamic. Instead of being in a defacto adversarial setting by sitting across from each other at a big rectangular desk, we are truly teammates, walking together side-by-side. I think it breaks down some barriers that exist between a manager and a direct report, which leads to more open communication, something I regard as the cornerstone of success for my department and for my library.
I also think that the combination of being outdoors and getting a boost from endorphins created by exercise allows space for creativity and inspiration to happen. It is the ideas resulting from this boost to creativity that will make us better librarians.
I’m not sure how this initiative will fare in the heat of the Texas summer, but creating a space for more open dialogue while improving your health is a combination that is hard to beat.
By Karen Holt
Karen is the Head of Reference & Instructional Services at The University of Texas – Pan American on the Texas-Mexico border. She loves traveling and biking. Her next destinations include Cycling for Libraries in France, IFLA, and (fingers crossed!) the LIBER Book Fair in Barcelona.