SOE Faculty Research Promotes Physical Activity & Community Engagement in Public Libraries 

Posted on June 28, 2018

Let’s Move in Libraries is an ongoing research project and initiative developed by Noah Lenstra, Assistant Professor of Library and Information Studies (LIS) at UNC Greensboro. His research began when he was a PhD student at the University of Illinois studying digital literacy among older adults and the roles of public libraries in supporting digital literacy. He was struck by how interested older adults were in both staying up to date with technology and also staying physically active. When he finished his dissertation, he started thinking about how public libraries can promote physical activity, not only among older adults, but across all ages.

Lenstra started compiling various resources that different libraries were producing to develop physical activity programs. This research led him to Scott Young, Professor and Dean’s Fellow of Innovation of the Department of Counseling and Educational Development at UNCG, and his efforts with Impact Through Innovation. They worked together to create a website to make Lenstra’s research accessible to libraries and communities across the country so that they can resource one another. For example, a librarian in Durham can talk to a librarian in Washington state and get pointers about what they’re doing to promote physical activity in their public library.

“We figured out a way to format my research so that it would really catalyze broad impact within the public library profession,” Lenstra says. “The website is a way for more librarians to get involved in physical activity promotion and secondarily raise the consciousness of potential partners.”

Here in North Carolina, Lenstra has been able to connect libraries with Triad area agencies on aging that develop physical activity programs for older adults. He has connected the coordinator of these programs to public libraries in Yadkin, Denton, and Asheboro. “She had never really thought of public libraries as a space to do that until I started talking with her about it,” Lenstra says. Beyond these programs, Lenstra is also focusing on alternative collections that libraries can loan out that would encourage people to lead more active lifestyles, such as checking out bicycles or fitness equipment.

Public libraries continue to find new, creative ways to stay relevant in their communities. Beyond free classes and resources that promote healthy living, these additions include cafes, free WiFi, and digital literacy training.

“Libraries as an institution struggle to get 18-25 year olds in the door,” Young says. “So they’re bringing in new programs and community spaces for people of all ages to access. They’re reimagining what libraries can be to different people.”

Check out Let’s Move in Libraries fantastic website here, and follow along on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram to stay in the loop about how libraries all over the world are using these resources to promote healthy lifestyles in their communities.