The Jolly Librarian Considers the Perils of Sitting

One of our NSCC librarians periodically sends me articles such as this one. Most of them say the same thing: Having a sedentary job is deadly. And she usually ends her email with a statement, “And you know how much we sit!”  In fact, recent studies have come to the depressing conclusion that even regular exercisers put their health at risk if they have a sedentary job.

She’s right. Although I count myself as a fairly active person, I sit more now than I ever had. When I was teaching in the English department, I could depend on moving around several hours a day. (I’ve never been able just to stand at a podium and lecture.)  But now, too much of my job is sitting.

For example, this morning I had time for a short walk before work. According to my pedometer, I walked 5000 steps before my job started. Since I entered the library, I’ve added 2300 more. This is not good.

What is a typical work day like? I attend meetings (sitting). I work at the circulation desk (sitting). I make tutorials (sitting). I sign forms and approve orders (sitting).  I write reports (sitting). 

Now there are opportunities to get up and about in the library. We can do orientations and workshops. We can walk around the library to see if students need our help. We can dash upstairs to get a book or film for students instead of having a student worker do it.  We can stand at the circulation desk instead of sitting. But somehow, there’s still quite a bit of sitting going on! 

How do we get “active librarianship” to mean ourselves as well as our services?  We librarians want to live long and healthy lives because there are many more books to read, apps to try out, and students to help navigate the beauties and perils of research. So we sat down to brainstorm:

  • Have a bell that we ring once a hour so that everyone gets up and moves around for ten minutes. We were enthused about that until we realized everyone would be moving and no one would be at the circulation desk.
  • Have a different bell for each person but quickly concluded that would cause confusion and irritation.
  • Give everyone a pedometer to wear to monitor their steps. Most of us liked the idea, although one person proclaimed that she’d never met a pedometer she could trust and how could we expect her to rely on something so untrustworthy.

We’ve not come up yet with a good way to get everyone up and moving throughout the day. But here are some things some of us are doing just to be more aware:

  • When I remember, I do wear a pedometer with the goal of getting 10,000 steps in each day.
  • We set alarms on our computers as a reminder that we’ve been sitting for a good long time and that this might be a good time to get up and walk around.
  • When I’m at the circulation desk during the day, I often stand to check out books and help students.
  • I’m not very good at this, but it’s something I hope to incorporate: Instead of emailing and phoning, at certain times of the day, I plan to walk to someone else’s cubicle or office.
  • Walk around the library at least once a day to ensure that all is well (including myself).
  • When I’m writing, I will do some of my brainstorming walking around the office.

I’m sure there are many more things we could and should be doing. But at least we are starting (and standing).



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