Wellness and Librarianship: An Interview with Loida Garcia-Febo

Wellness and Librarianship: An Interview with Loida Garcia-Febo

It can be a very difficult time to find a balance between work and life. Most libraries still remain closed, and many people are working from home, fortunately. However, working from home also poses unique challenges. We need to think about wellness in our lives and in our communities. What are libraries doing to support wellness? In this interview, Loida Garcia-Febo, a global library leader, shares her thoughts on maintaining wellness in the community and on the impact of the pandemic in libraries. 

Ray: Thanks for speaking with me! How do you manage your wellness during this challenging time?

Loida: I have wellness principles taught to me by my mother ingrained in my routine. However, experiencing a worldwide pandemic is a new thing for all of us, so I have worked a strategy to keep me on track. I write encouraging messages and post them around the house, including things like: eat healthy, get your sleep, drink water and green juice, exercise, listen to music, go for a walk to appreciate nature, and call my family. I also set alarms reminding me to do all of those things. For instance, one alarm could be to prepare my grocery list and another one to bring it with me to the supermarket to make sure I don’t forget anything. Sometimes, I don’t do some of those things and instead spend a long time listening to music that lifts my spirits up, and that is okay, too. We are in uncharted territory; we can’t be too hard on ourselves. If you want to eat that chocolate cake, do it and enjoy it! I know delicious things like that can be helpful, too!

Ray: What have you seen trending on social media for library workers to promote wellness to their communities and themselves?

Loida: I am heartened to see that libraries are providing spaces to promote wellness for their patrons and communities, such as online programs to help patrons meditate and do yoga, crafts, and specific sessions for people to empower themselves in difficult times. I love it!

I have also seen library workers informally scheduling time in Zoom to knit, do happy hours, and just catch up together with their team. I enjoy looking at the posts of a Facebook page dedicated to cooking during corona times where many colleagues share recipes and photos of their cooking.  

Ray: I am curious about your thoughts, as a respected and global library leader, on our field: what do you see changing in the library/information sciences profession after the pandemic is over?

Loida: Life as we know it has changed, and library services have forever changed, too. Library programs and services will always be about people. That’s unchangeable. One fascinating aspect is how many libraries were able to shift, in a sudden and disrupting way, from a model rooted in in-person services to a model where online is at the center of everything we do. If we were able to execute that massive change and still manage to provide services that are helping our patrons, we might be able to continue doing more online when we have more time to carefully plan all of the complex components of such services.

We are still experiencing many changes, but I can see how ways in which libraries operated before COVID-19 will be transformed, including data security, copyright matters, online programming from all types of libraries, collection development, and negotiations with publishers of e-resources.

An aspect we must pay attention to is the well-being of library workers. The attention and care that employees receive from their employer must be revised to ensure that employees stay healthy and safe at their places of work. There are salary and performance considerations that need to be looked at. How do you manage those when the employees cannot go to the physical building because there is a pandemic? All these are very important to keep our amazing library workers safe, to move our profession forward, and for libraries to continue providing services to our communities.

Loida Garcia-Febo is an international library consultant, researcher, and expert on topics such as human rights, advocacy, and services to multicultural populations. She is the immediate past president of the American Library Association. Garcia-Febo has served communities as academic, public, school, and special librarian in Puerto Rico and New York. She has taught in 27 countries and has advocated on behalf of libraries at the United Nations, European Union Parliament, U.S. Congress, New York City’s City Hall, New York State Senate, and on the streets and sidewalks of New York. She completed two terms on the IFLA Governing Board, where she chaired the Action for Development through Libraries Programme (ALP). At IFLA, she also co-founded IFLA New Professionals SIG, served in FAIFE and CPDWL, and is currently a member of the Management of Library Associations Section. Garcia-Febo is the recipient of the 2015 REFORMA Elizabeth Martinez Lifetime Achievement Award. She was named a Notable Member of ALA’s International Relations Round Table, received the ALA Elizabeth Futas Catalyst for Change Award in 2010, and was named a Library Journal Mover & Shaker Freedom Fighter in 2007.