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Mental health and wellbeing focus of library book collection

By Jenn Watt

Everyone goes through difficult times in their life whether it be grief depression anxiety relationship issues or periods of intense stress. Sometimes finding the right book at the right time can make a difference.

The Haliburton County Public Library is promoting a new collection available online and in its branches filled with dozens of books on mental health and wellbeing selected by social worker Barb Fraser of the Haliburton Highlands Family Health Team.

“We just want people to feel better. It’s not an end in itself it’s one of many tools or many resources across our community” says Fraser who has been a social worker in Haliburton for more than 12 years. “People might have a strong faith it might be their church that gives them strength. For other people it might be a therapist. For some people it might be a physician. For some people it’s their weekly knitting group that they go to. For others it’s using books to perhaps begin a conversation or to help really reflect on what’s going on with you.”

Some of the books in the collection were already owned by the library others were purchased specifically for the new initiative. The Friends of the Haliburton County Public Library contributed more than $2000 for the purchase of new books and e-books.

“It was very generous for them to agree to complement the collection that was already there and expand it” Fraser said.

The idea for the mental health and wellbeing collection was sparked during conversations Fraser had with Sherrill Sherwood collection development co-ordinator at Haliburton County Public Library.

The women initially met when Sherwood signed up for Fraser’s Mindfulness-Based Chronic Pain Management course which is for stress anxiety physical and/or emotional pain.

“I would bring books I have to supplement the material in the course. … I think we just bonded around books and then I found out she worked at the library” Fraser said.

Sherwood and Fraser met with Erin Kernohan-Berning branch services librarian at HCPL and came up with ideas about curating acquiring and promoting the materials. About six months ago Kernohan-Berning added a button to the main website for HCPL which leads to a special page that features the mental health and wellbeing books. The visually-appealing presentation allows for online browsing by those who are interested and it’s also broken down by topic to quickly narrow down the search for those looking for something specific.

Fraser thanked both Kernohan-Berning and CEO Bessie Sullivan for embracing the idea.

Sherwood pointed out that what patrons take out from the library is private.

“We won’t talk about what you take out here” she said.

Having a specific resource list for those who are going through difficult periods in their lives can help to reduce feelings of isolation Sherwood said.

Fraser agreed saying the presence of an organized collection shows people they’re not alone.

“If you have a collection on anxiety or you have a collection on depression or you have a collection on grief you look at this and go oh there’s a lot of people struggling with this like me” she said.

Sherwood said it could have a similar impact as the Rainbow Collection which is a list of books with subject matter pertaining to the LGBTQ+ community that can be accessed online.

“I think it takes away the stigma … if the library says ‘here there’s so many people dealing with this that we actually have a specific collection’” she said.

The Dysart library branch currently has a display with many of the books from the mental health and wellbeing collection available. They can also be found and reserved online at haliburtonlibrary.ca . Click the link on the right side of the page to be taken to the list.

Sherwood said the resources don’t replace the support of a mental health professional and said if you are in crisis go to the closest emergency department or call the 24/7 Four County Crisis Line at 1-866-995-9933.