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Online to offline: Inspiring Minds

This video sees David Brown explain the Inspiring Minds project at the University of York Library.
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Here at the University of York Library, for a couple of years we have been offering a range of events to promote well-being, through our Inspiring Minds initiative.
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We know that working constantly isn’t productive: when you are tired and stressed, you can’t take information in, or produce your best work. So we wanted to offer some different events in the Library which would encourage our visitors to take some time away from the computers and their devices to relax and socialise. One of the main drivers for introducing Inspiring Minds, was to support students at exam periods where stress levels are high. In the lead up to and during exams, the library is alway packed with students working hard and we can have over 3,000 visitors a day.
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The Library is open 24 hours a day and 362 days a year – we get a couple of closure days for Christmas and New Year. So we know that it is possible for students to stay and work for long periods – even be days at a time – with no break. Because of this we wanted to encourage students to take a break by giving them opportunities to make relaxation part of their exam study timetable. At exam times we have offered a range of activities, including, mindfulness colouring, lego building and inviting Guide dogs into the Library for a meet and greet.
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Feedback from these events has been positive and it’s be nice to get to chat to our students, and find out more from them about their experiences of studying at the University. We are very dedicated here at York to providing a good student experience, and events like these not only help our users to take a break, but also help us get to know them and make improvements to our service offering in response to their feedback. We try to link our events to local and national activities. For example, we had a mental health living library for mental health week, whereby members of staff could be “loaned out” to other staff and students to discuss their experiences of mental health.
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It was actually at one of these events that we first started to discuss the idea of developing digital wellbeing resources – which eventually resulted in the development of this online course. Anyone at the Library can submit an idea to our Inspiring Minds initiative, and it’s been positive for developing relationships across the teams here. It’s also enabled us to offer a varied range of events that help take the ‘digital’ out of wellbeing.
With digital technology at the forefront of our daily lives, it’s easy to see why students spend so much of their time online. From writing essays to reading articles, many activities which used to be paper-based have now become entirely digital. That shift to digital has brought a whole range of anxieties and challenges for students, not least of which is switching off their devices.
University environments don’t always encourage a healthy work-life balance for our students. With 24/7 access to library buildings, study spaces and online resources, there’s often no separation for students between ‘work’ and ‘life’. Throw in part-time jobs, family commitments, and a whole host of other responsibilities, and it’s no wonder that students sometimes feel overwhelmed.
In this video, David Brown, one of the University of York’s Academic Liaison Librarians, explains some of the ways in which the Library at York has supported student wellbeing through different activities and events. In this way, we’ve helped students to take some valuable time away from their screens, in the hope that when they do return to their work they’ll be relaxed and refreshed.
Through these ‘Inspiring Minds’ initiatives, we’ve sought to improve our students’ wellbeing, helping them to feel re-energised and inspired about their studies while also having a bit of fun along the way!

Offline activities

We have focused in the previous few steps on how we can adopt strategies to improve our relationship with technology, how we can improve our home-working environment and how we can avoid adding to others’ information overload. Now let’s take the opportunity to consider some of the offline activities David mentioned in the video. As part of your considerations of online/offline balance are there any non-digital activities you are going to explore to help you ‘switch off’ and relax?
Do you plan on taking up a new hobby? Are you going to bring down the Lego from the loft? Are you interested in exploring your creative side? Or do you want to relax with a new book? In the comments section, share some activities you are going to explore.
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