Welcome to the July 2020 edition of Let’s Move in Libraries! This edition highlights:

  • A new opportunity to try a free walking program at your library
  • A new book on healthy living programming
  • A quick summary of some of the ways public libraries support access to food and healthy eating during COVID-19
  • The release of a new resource on library obstacle courses, and
  • A new webinar on how to partner with others in your community to extend access to active living opportunities for older adults.

In our June 2020 newsletter, we announced a permanent expansion in the scope of Let’s Move in Libraries. Our project was inspired by Former First Lady Michelle Obama’s Let’s Move! initiative, which focused on supporting Healthy Eating and Active Living (HEAL) among Americans. Mrs. Obama worked to increase physical activity and nutrition through museums, with the support of the U.S. Institute of Museum & Library Services. We now align Let’s Move in Libraries even closer to Mrs. Obama’s original vision by supporting both physical activity and food based programming and partnerships in public libraries. More information on this expansion and the ideas behind it can be found in our revised About Page. We would love your feedback at any point! Contact us and engage us on social media. We’re on FacebookInstagramTwitter, and YouTube.

Bring the Walking Classroom to your Library

Walking Classroom LogoThis month’s featured images come from The Walking Classroom, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization based in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, dedicated to helping “strengthen the physical, mental, and academic health of children. The program teaches children to establish and maintain healthy lifestyle habits, while also building their health literacy and core content knowledge. Students walk, listen, and learn.” Learn more on their About Page.

During the last six months, we have been talking with project founder Laura Fenn about the opportunities to bring this program into public libraries, given all that public libraries already do to support walking. For a refresher on this topic, consult the American Library Association webinar on “Taking a Walk with the Library: StoryWalk®, Walking Book Clubs and More,” the blog post “9 ways to take a walk with the library,” and our StoryWalk(r) resource page.

In any case, now is the perfect time to learn more about this non-profit and to bring their resources to your community. Through July 31, 2020, their collection of educational podcasts are completely free. The app includes 191 15-minute podcasts on topics related to English language arts, social studies, science, biographies, and more. Perfect for a DIY Walking Classroom your patrons can use at home, at a park, on a greenway, or wherever they happen to be. Simply sharing this link on your social media is a great way to let your community know about this free resource, but you may also want to do something more structured, like a Walking Classroom virtual reading challenge. The possibilities are endless! Although the initiative is focused on children, the Walking Classroom has also found success working with senior centers, so you may find that some adults also enjoy the short educational podcasts. If you do use this free resource at your library, please let us know how it goes!

We are also hoping to identify some public libraries that may be interested in participating in a more intensive pilot project that examines the feasibility of implementing more structured Walking Classroom programs in public libraries. Learn more about what is involved in this program on their website, and contact us if you are interested in potentially participating in this project, which will most likely occur in Summer 2021.

Finally, we’d also like to recommend all public librarians to work to ensure that all outdoor programming is as universally accessible as possible. Not everyone can walk. Some individuals rely on assistive aids like wheelchairs to move around the community. If you’d like a resource to help you think about how to make your walking programs accessible, we recommend the U.S. Centers for Disease Control & Prevention’s Connecting Routes + Destinations initiative, which focuses on “connecting activity-friendly routes to everyday destinations (like libraries!) make it safer and more convenient for people of all abilities to walk, run, bike, skate, or use wheelchairs.” The CDC’s Implementation Resource Guide includes recommendations that could be followed to work towards full inclusion in outdoor library programs, including the Walking Classroom, StoryWalk(s), and many others.

New book on healthy living at the library

Healthy Living at the Library is now available for order from Libraries Unlimited, an ABC-CLIO Imprint! This handbook is jam packed of evidence-based, field-tested programs focused on increasing Healthy Eating and Active Living in public libraries. From garden plots to cooking classes, StoryWalks to free yoga, more and more libraries are developing innovative programs and partnerships to encourage healthy living. Libraries increasingly provide health and wellness programs for all ages and abilities, and Healthy Living at the Library is intended for library staff of all types who want to offer programs and services that foster healthy living, particularly in the domains of food and physical activity.

Here are some of the endorsements this book has received:

“Noah Lenstra has consistently promoted and researched healthy living and wellness, which was one of my ALA presidential efforts. I’m heartened to read his book—the first of its kind!—including ideas for programming for year-round healthy living and for how to sustain healthy living at the library, which would equip library workers with resources to practice these principles and bring best practices to the communities they serve.”—Loida Garcia-Febo, International Library Consultant, Past President of the American Library Association

“Noah Lenstra has established himself as the expert on the innovative trends in health and wellness programs at libraries. With historical perspective, excellent research, and detailed case studies, Healthy Living at the Library gives readers everything they need to know to get a wellness program up and running. From square dancing to belly dancing, from weight lifting to yoga, from therapy dogs to bike shares—all in the library—this book will leave you inspired and ready for action.”—Josh Berk, Executive Director, Bethlehem Area Public Library

“With enthusiasm, generosity, and a formidable knowledge base, Noah Lenstra makes the case for library promotion of public health and provides librarians much inspiration and practical advice. Health, wellness, nutrition, and movement programming and related activities, from serving summer meals to lending bikes, aren’t mission-stretching add-ons; rather, they are intrinsic to the purpose of the library and tremendously beneficial to participants. A wide array of examples from libraries around the United States and worldwide demonstrate that library involvement makes healthy living practices accessible and inclusive while enhancing the library’s role in the community.”—Janet Ingraham Dwyer, Library Consultant, State Library of Ohio

Healthy Living at the Library provides a wealth of examples helpful for any size library to start or add to their healthy living initiatives. What sets this book apart is the perspective provided for each example. Readers are not told what should be done; rather, they are given a variety of perspectives from librarians around the world who have been doing the work for years now of integrating healthy living into their library’s programming efforts. Librarians can then take the ideas and adapt them to suit their community’s needs. As someone who has integrated a variety of health-related programming at a joint-use library (serving public patrons as well as college students), I found myself agreeing with the approaches offered on how to get started as well as jotting down additional ideas of how to move forward strategically with future efforts. This book will be invaluable for any librarian wishing to increase the health education opportunities of their community through library programming.”—Kendra Auberry, Librarian/Assistant Professor, Indian River State College

“Libraries are natural partners in encouraging healthy living for our communities. Based on my positive experiences with Let’s Move Museums and Gardens promoting healthy practices in cultural spaces, I am thrilled to see similar success in this exciting compilation of health-related activities in our libraries.”—Susan Hildreth, Former Director, Institute of Museum and Library Services

“Implementing physical health and wellness programs at the library allow it to be a one-stop shop to meet the needs of the community; patron services can be enhanced by increasing literacy and health and wellness activities for patrons.”—Michelle Bennett-Copeland, Youth Services Manager at Fulton County Library System

Go to the Libraries Unlimited website to order your copy!

Supporting healthy eating during COVID-19

On June 12, we joined the #FoodFri Twitter Chat started by MomsRising on the topic of how community groups are addressing food insecurity during COVID-19. We shared how public libraries are addressing this issue. Here is a summary of our contribution to the Twitter Chat.

And here are some of the resources we shared:
COVID-19 Resources from California State Library’s Lunch at the Library initiative

Feeding Your Community Summer Meals at Libraries in 2020 – webinar with representatives from USDA recorded May 2020

Libraries and Summer Food – Manual from Collaborative Summer Library Program

Berea Kids Eat in Kentucky, thanks in part to participation of Madison County Public Library

Cleveland Public Library to Provide Free Food and Resources for Children and Families

Lunch at the library: examination of a community-based approach to addressing summer food insecurity

Get Cooking with South Carolina’s Read Eat Grow

Drive-Thru Meals at Saint Louis County Library

Summer Reading & Lunches Program at the Midland Public Library (West Texas)

Library food distribution is feeding families in Pima County, Arizona

If you are new to this topic, we recommend starting with this free, open-source article:
Lenstra, Noah, and Christine D’Arpa. “Food Justice in the Public Library: Information, Resources, and Meals.” The International Journal of Information, Diversity, & Inclusion (IJIDI) 3.4 (2019).

What is your library doing to support access to food, nutrition, seeds, gardening, etc., during COVID-19? Let us know! We’d love to feature you on our website, on social media, and in a future newsletter.

Library Obstacle Course: Coming Soon to a Library Near You!
In June, we teamed up with OCLC/WebJunction to publish a new resource on Library Obstacle Courses, just one of the innovative ways public libraries across North America have responded to COVID-19. Check it out in Think Outside the Library with a Sidewalk Obstacle Course. Here’s an excerpt:

“In just one month, this idea of a sidewalk obstacle course has spread through the grassroots communications channels utilized by public librarians to exchange ideas, and has become a national phenomenon. Sidewalk obstacle courses now exist in Alaska, Alabama, California, Illinois, Indiana, Nebraska, South Carolina, Florida (Lake County Library System), North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Oregon, South Dakota, Texas, Washington, Wisconsin, (and probably even more states we haven’t captured!) and it has also spread to Canada. with British Columbia’s Coquitlam Library asking “Up for a challenge? Take on the Coquitlam Library Crunch obstacle course at the Poirier branch! Share photos and videos of yourself completing the obstacle for a chance to win a prize! Submit an entry by posting on social media and tagging #CoquitlamLibraryCrunch.”

New webinar on physical activity programs for older adults
On June 9, 2020, we had the opportunity to present on “Partnering with Public Libraries to Offer Physical Activity Programs for Older Adults” on the results of our “Geri-Fit® at the Library: Studying Small and Rural Public Libraries as Venues for Active Living Among Older Adults” study.

This event was part of the U.S. National Council on Aging’s Age+Action conference. About 100 people representing a diverse array of aging organizations participated in the session! If you missed it, the recording is now available on our website. Check it out and get inspired to start a new partnership focused on supporting healthy aging at your library!

Other resources
Did you know our logo is free to use? It’s true! We just ask that you share back what you do with it. We want to thank Atlanta’s Fulton County Library System for using our logo in their online virtual programming. Every week the Fulton County Library System offers online Let’s Move in Libraries programs, and to support this important work, the library system has purchased t-shirts and signage that library staff can use for this programming. You can check out the Fulton County Library System’s Let’s Move in Libraries programming on their Facebook channel to learn more about their efforts, and to get inspired to try something new with the Let’s Move in Libraries logo at your library.

Bring the logo to your library by downloading our logo and add it to your promotional materials. Just let us know how you use it! The easiest way is to tag us on social media.

During the October 2019 meetings of our Advisory Groups, we decided to re-launch our online group on Facebook. We invite you to join the 100+ librarians already in the group. This is YOUR SPACE to ask questions, get advice, share successes and challenges, and generally get the support you need to make a difference in your community. Consider joining us, and if you have a question about chair-based, StoryWalk(r), or gardening, or any other program that includes movement and physical activity, go ahead and ask it in this group!

Before the COVID-19 Pandemic, we had been featuring a different program idea each month, including music and movement, hands-on gardening, chair-based exercises, and StoryWalk(R). Check these out! We’ll be back with more featured programs in future newsletters, many of them focused on healthy eating! Please reach out with ideas for future featured programs at any point.


Let us know if there are other innovative things you’re doing that we haven’t featured! We want to shine a light on all the ways librarians are getting the word out on the power of movement and healthy living in library programming. You are always invited to reach out and share with us. Please also reminder to share with us any news on programs you may be offering. We always love hearing from you! Tag us on social media or email news directly through our website. We’d love to hear from you!

Follow (and share with) Let’s Move in Libraries on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and YouTube to stay up-to-date with what public libraries around the world do to get their communities moving. Sign up for our newsletter to get monthly news delivered right to your inbox.

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Subscribe to the monthly Let’s Move in Libraries newsletter for monthly editions of success stories, educational opportunities, and food for thought that will deepen the impact of movement-based programs and services in public libraries. The Let’s Move in Libraries project focuses on how public libraries create opportunities for individuals of all ages and abilities to engage in healthy physical activity.