A blog from the Southern Ontario Library Service

Accessing Mental Health & Wellbeing Resources in a Rural Library

Erin Kernohan-Berning, Branch Services Librarian for Haliburton County Public Library, takes a few minutes out of her busy schedule to tell us about an important new collection and the collaborative work behind it. 

woman holding e-reader

This year, Haliburton County Public Library is proud to launch our Mental Health & Wellbeing collection. This project had been percolating for some time, but began in earnest after attending a session on bibliotherapy by Dr. Natalia Tukhareli at the Ontario Library Association’s Super Conference. We were inspired by the idea of using books and information to provide resources to people who need help with their own mental health and wellbeing, or that of their loved ones – particularly in a rural area where people often live in isolation and may have difficulty accessing mental health services.

We compiled the Mental Health and Wellbeing resource list collaboratively with the professionals of the Haliburton Highlands Family Health Team. Because HCPL has eight service points over a vast geographic area, a static collection in a single branch wouldn’t be useful to our patrons. So we used Library Aware’s NextReads newsletters and our website to create a virtual browsing experience where patrons can explore the collection’s various topics – anxiety & depression, grief, relationships, sleep, stress & relaxation, and mindfulness & meditation. From the privacy of their own computer, they can easily browse and request items in the collection.

Each topic area includes introductory text developed with HHFHT Social Worker, Barb Fraser, to help inform and destigmatize, as well as carefully chosen images to create a sense of calm. Posters and bookmarks with information about the collection, as well as the emergency line for Four County Crisis, will be used as promotional material at all of our branches and service points. Local media will be engaged, promoting the collection through the radio and newspapers. Sherrill and Barb will also be presenting on a panel about bibliotherapy at Super Conference.

Our Mental Health & Wellbeing Collection isn’t our first topic-specific collection. We had originally applied for a grant to launch a community special collections project (which was part of Erin’s Advancing Public Library Leadership (APLL) Program final project), but when we didn’t get the grant we instead tackled the project piecemeal through casual collaborations with local organizations and some clever cataloguing. To date, these collections also include the Rainbow Collection (LGBTQ+ literature), The Land Trust Collection (resources on conservation and the environment), and the U-Links Collection (a digital collection of community based research).

You can visit our Mental Health & Wellbeing Collection at haliburtonlibrary.ca. If you have questions about the collection, or how you might start one of your own, please contact us!

~ Erin Kernohan-Berning, Branch Services Librarian | ekernohan@haliburtonlibrary.ca
~ Sherrill Sherwood, Collections Development Coordinator | ssherwood@haliburtonlibary.ca


2 thoughts on “Accessing Mental Health & Wellbeing Resources in a Rural Library

  1. That’s a wonderful idea! We currently have Student Mental Health Backpacks with books, journals, a pass for a local Yoga class, an even a pack of gum and stress ball (or similar thing). They came about after meeting with local high school students and have been a hit.

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