The building is a hive of activity on this wintry day. A local Zumba instructor is teaching a class in one of the meeting rooms and the participants are sweating it out to upbeat music. In the Children’s department, the kids are playing a lively round of mini-golf. In another area, a woman is arranging to borrow a set of snowshoes for a trek through the woods on the weekend. You would be forgiven if you thought this was some kind of recreation or community centre, but it’s not. It’s a public library.
Long thought of as just repositories for books, libraries are so much more. Libraries have a holistic impact on a person’s well-being, as there are programs and services that benefit both mind and body. Libraries (and library patrons) are becoming increasingly active, recognizing that the health of a community is tied to the health of its citizens. Speaking of books, though, don’t discount the benefits reading can have on your physical fitness. Studies have shown that reading has multiple positive affects on a person’s health such as reducing stress, slowing cognitive decline, and improving sleep. People who are well rested, mentally sharp and less stressed are better able to face the challenges of the day. New Brunswick public libraries have multiple collections related to physical fitness. For instance, we have instructional books on how to play your favourite sport, or trail guides to lead you to great hiking spots. We have workout DVDs that can enhance your daily exercise routine, and we have music (and audiobooks) that you can walk or jog to. Libraries also have magazines such as Runner’s World, Yoga Journal, and Shape to help you lead an active life. You can find all this and more by browsing our online catalogue at http://catalogue.gnb.ca.
 Whiteman, Honor. “Five ways reading can improve health and well-being.” Medical News Today. 12 October 2016. Accessed online. 4 June 2019, https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/313429.php
A new area of focus over the last couple of years has been on lending objects. Many of the objects that you can now check out through public libraries have a connection to physical fitness. For instance, in Riverview you can check out a Discovery Daypack – a backpack filled with essential tools for a hiking adventure, such as maps, bird identification guides, binoculars, a compass, and much more. Several libraries lend equipment such as snowshoes and trekking poles, and seed libraries are popping up in places such as Moncton, Fredericton, Bathurst, Campbellton, St. Andrews and Woodstock. Seed libraries allow you to check out a packet of seeds, which you can then take home and plant in your garden. This encourages healthy eating and physical activity and benefits the environment as well.
Some of the most popular objects we lend are passes. These passes grant the holder a free admission to the attraction for which they are issued. Some of these are provincial in scope (meaning they can be checked out from any public library in New Brunswick), and some are local (meaning they only available in one specific area). Examples of provincial scope passes include the Hopewell Rocks and the Fundy Trail Parkway. Locally, Moncton-area libraries are lending passes to the Fit Rocks rock climbing gym and Fredericton Public Library has partnered with Second Nature Outdoors to loan passes that allow people to rent a canoe for free. These passes are a great incentive to get people moving and exploring the wonderful province in which we live.
Another way in which libraries support physical fitness is through programs and partnerships. More than 280,000 New Brunswickers attend library programs each year, which means many people are taking advantage of the opportunity to educate themselves and pursue personal interests. New Brunswick public libraries collaborate with several community organizations to deliver these programs. For example, the libraries in Atholville, Campbellton and Dalhousie collaborated with Aboriginal Sport and Recreation New
Brunswick to offer children a chance to try their hand at rugby in the First Nations community of Listuguj. A StoryWalk® is another example of a program involving physical activity. During this program, participants take a leisurely walk along a nature trail or another outdoor path and stop at designated intervals to read pages of a book. Yoga, fitness and dance classes are becoming increasingly popular, and staff are always coming up with creative ideas for programs such as bicycle rodeos, running/walking clubs and even Quidditch matches! If you are interested in collaborating on a program, please contact your local public library.
New Brunswick Public Libraries’ flagship program is the Summer Reading Club (SRC). Every year, children from birth to grade 8 are invited to set a summer reading goal and discover the joy of reading. Each year’s program is based on a different theme. Next year, the theme is Health and Wellness, so SRC 2020 will have a significant physical activity component.
All of the programs and services described above are available to New Brunswickers with a valid NB Public Libraries card. To sign up for a card, or for more information on the programs and services being offered, please contact your library or visit our website at http://www.gnb.ca/publiclibraries.
Kate Thompson, Head of Public Services Development
New Brunswick Public Library Service