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Fostering a culture of wellness and support for library workers through trainings centered on self-care techniques and understanding secondary trauma.Close up of holding hands


Library workers regularly interface with members of the community who are in adverse situations, hardship, and trauma. Through a series of trainings designed to create widespread understanding of secondary trauma, foster a culture of wellness, and orient towards self-care in action, staff can continue to provide meaningful service without burnout.

An ACE study done by the Center for Disease Control revealed that 64% of adults have experienced abuse, neglect, or other potentially traumatic incidents at least once before the age of 18. As urban library workers, we are public servants, front-line workers, and take pride in the fact that everyone is welcome at the library. Of course, because we interact with the public, we work on a daily basis with patrons who have suffered. This affects us, and can manifest as stress, burnout, hypervigilance, numbness, cynicism, or a sense that one can never do enough.

Rekindling from Burnout is a series of trainings for staff about secondary trauma, mindfulness and self-care. The term “trauma stewardship” was coined by social worker Laura van Dernoot Lipsky, whose book Trauma Stewardship: An Everyday Guide for Caring for Self While Caring for Others was originally written for other social workers, paramedics, police officers, and others who work on a daily basis with clients and other people who have suffered (and/or are still suffering) from some kind of trauma (physiological, neurological, emotional, etc.). Library workers are also service providers, regularly connecting patrons in need to resources. Public libraries are the most inclusive and barrier-free community spaces, providing wonderful opportunities, and some significant challenges. Secondary trauma can affect staff, preventing us from imparting quality service with empathy and utmost care, contributing to absenteeism, and turnover. This initiative seeks to provide us with the resources we need to flourish: an in-depth understanding of secondary trauma, mindfulness, and self-care tools that create space for conversations about wellness. The recent Healthy Communities Conference reframes our intentions around health and wellness as a library system. Rekindling from Burnout aligns with this broader initiative by focusing on staff resilience through concrete practices.     

Desired Outcomes

Success will be measured in the following ways:

  • Awareness of trauma exposure response and self-care tools has increased (pre/post surveys)
  • Staff feel more connected/supported (pre/post surveys)
  • Staff attend the trainings (number of participants reached)

This proposal was prepared for Adams Street, Bedford, Brighton Beach, Brownsville, Canarsie, Cypress Hills, Park Slope, and Red Hook Libraries.


Average: 5 (1 vote)
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