MacOdrum Library Catches Colouring Craze

Students took mental breathers from December exams with colouring books and puzzles at MacOdrum Library. (Christine Lyons Photo)

If you took a walk through MacOdrum Library during exams in December, you would have seen hundreds of students hunched over their desks in concentration.

But not everyone was studying. Some students were giving their brains a break at colouring tables on the main floor and in the Discovery Centre, where they could also work on solving puzzles.

“The intention was to provide these in times of stress and raise thoughts about alternative ways of dealing with stress,” says Cheryl Schramm, the Discovery Centre’s interim director, who first introduced the activities during a week-long mental wellness initiative last November called Thrive Week.

When students responded positively, Schramm decided to bring the activities out intermittently through the school year.

It is part of a larger Healthy Learning Space Initiative she’s started at the Discovery Centre to encourage students to think about how they manage their health while in university.

Other activities have included a survey to measure how many hours students sit in a day, and a standing competition to encourage people to work at the Discovery Centre’s treadmill desks or standing tables.

“The Discovery Centre here is an innovative space for learning and one facet of learning is one’s health,” Schramm says. “I’m trying to build up this notion that we have to take care of ourselves.”

Schramm’s plan was to model her pilot project after Carleton’s Healthy Workplace Initiative, which earned gold level certification this year from Service Excellence Canada.

“That’s for staff,” Schramm says. “And I think the same messages can be given to our students.”

She’s not the only one who thinks so.

While students were busy colouring and piecing together puzzles on the library’s fourth floor, Ryan Tucci started a separate colouring project on the main floor.

Tucci, a references services administrator at MacOdrum and a master’s student in library and information science at San José State University, says he wanted to find a way to bring students “back to the pen and paper” to help them destress from time spent studying in front of a screen.

One day, he got an email from American Libraries Magazine with an article about colouring clubs that were popping up across the United States.

“When I saw this email I thought, let me put a proposal into Carleton and see if we can get something started,” Tucci says.

Soon after, a table was set up near the library lobby with pencil crayons and colouring designs he found for free online.

He also started a hashtag — #cucolouring — to encourage people to share their work on Twitter.

It didn’t take long before the table was filled with curious students looking to unwind for a few minutes from the stress of the exam season.

“It was really calming,” says Tucci, who sat down and coloured with them on occasion. “I picked up several colouring books to give out as Christmas gifts this year.”

The colouring trend has recently taken off around the world. The adult colouring book Secret Garden was at the top of the Amazon.ca Bestsellers in Books list for 2015.

While experts hesitate to dub it “therapy” or “meditation,” they don’t deny the relaxing benefits.

It’s an activity that’s “low-risk, high-reward,” Tucci says. “It doesn’t cost a lot to put on something like that and I think we’re seeing the benefits of it.”

Schramm and Tucci are hoping more departments across campus will come together to bring healthy initiatives to students, as well as faculty and staff.

They both plan to roll out their colouring books and puzzles again when mid-terms or finals come around.

“I’m just seeing how it goes, providing some groundwork,” Schramm says. “And hopefully things will grow from there.”

This entry was written by Kirsten Fenn and posted in the issue. Bookmark the permalink or share the following short URL for this article via social media: http://carletonnow.carleton.ca/?p=13492

Kirsten Fenn

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