Blogger Alyson Feldman-Piltch

Mindfulness at the public service desk

A wooden arrow set against the sky points right, and has the word mindfulness written on it

As Children’s Librarians, we are often “on”.  Facing the public and helping others, even on the days that we aren’t even feeling that great ourselves.  It seems that on our quest to help others and inspire their love of reading, we put ourselves and our needs on the back burner.

Judging by the uptick in programs about mindfulness and self-care at conferences and events, as well as the conversations I have had with other librarians, I get the feeling I’m not the only person who feels this way.

Lately, I have been trying to find ways to practice mindfulness and self-care in the quiet, in-between moments that I get at my desk; and when  I say in-between, I truly mean in-between, some days I only have 5-10 minutes between classes, programs, or meetings.

One of the things that I have found helpful is the essential oil rollers I found at CVS in lavender and citrus scents.  When I have a moment, I try to swipe one of them over my wrist or behind my ear and take a deep breath.

Another step I’ve taken is practicing more mindful breathing.  I breathe in through my nose over three counts, and exhale over six.  Then, I’ll bump it up to a 4/8 or 5/10 ratio.

A third practice I’ve taken is stepping outside for a moment.  I know it may sound trivial, but it usually helps.  There’s usually a drastic temperature change involved in this, as I live in Boston, and for me, the fresh air and the temperature change sometimes help me snap out of a lull or recenter myself.  If I can’t step outside, holding an ice cube does the trick.

I’m sure I can’t be the only one who tries to be mindful during the day, and am curious, what practices partake in?  Are there things that you have found don’t work?  I’d love to hear them, so please share in the comments!


  1. Lisa Hubbell

    These are good suggestions for self-care, especially breathing and stepping outside briefly. However, I would caution against using scents at a public service desk, as even natural essential oils present sensitivity issues for some patrons and library workers. Some things I find helpful: drinking water throughout the day, doing simple desk exercises, and letting songs run through my head as positive reminders.

  2. Kelly Doolitttle

    A thoughtful and helpful post! The breathing and the getting outdoors are both things that help me too. May I just mention, though, that scents in closed public spaces can have a very negative effect on your co-workers and other library users who have sensitivities to scents of all kinds? I love lavender and citrus scents, too, but they must be in such minute amounts to not trigger sinus reactions that it isn’t worth bothering.
    Essential oils, as well as all natural scents of other kinds affect many people negatively, so please everyone be mindful when you’re practicing mindfulness!

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