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The Daily Tar Heel

UNC libraries week of balance helps students destress during finals

Davis library has added treadmill desks to its fifth floor. Photo by Margaret Cheatham Williams.

Clarification: An earlier version of this story mischaracterized the dogs as service animals. They are therapy dogs. 

UNC Libraries’ Week of Balance helps students maintain their mental health during exam week by offering a series of stress-relieving events and activities.

The Week of Balance is held at the end of every semester during finals. Judy Panitch, the director of library communications, said the program has been held for several years and new activities are added each year.

“The Week of Balance is a week — a little bit more than a week — of activities during exam time that are intended to provide opportunities for students to relax and recharge and take a mini break from studying,” Panitch said.

Panitch said the program’s primary goal is to help students be successful during exam period. 

Brittany Soder, a graduate assistant at the Undergraduate Library, also believes the Week of Balance is important for student success and wellness.

“We just like to step in for the students and make a space for self-care and relaxation, because we just want to make sure that we help UNC students succeed at their finals,” Soder said.

Due to the high amount of students heading to UNC’s libraries to study for exams, libraries are the optimal spot for Week of Balance events to be held. 

“The libraries are very much a center of student activity, especially around exams,” Panitch said. “This is a really appropriate place to have some of these activities.”

Soder finds UNC’s libraries a significant part of the campus experience. For this reason, she believes it’s important to make sure libraries are welcoming environments.

“It shouldn’t just be all about work and being stressed out and pulling those all-nighters,” Soder said. “(A library) should be a place where you can feel comfortable and you can feel like it’s a place where you can get your best work done, which also sometimes means taking care of yourself.”

Several of the events involve therapy animals. Silvia Kreda, an assistant professor of medicine, volunteers with North Carolina Pet Partners and brings her certified therapy dog Whiskey to events held at the library. She said students decompress not only by interacting with therapy dogs, but also by using that break to simply talk about their lives.

“People sit with the dogs and pet them,” Kreda said. “The students talk about how they're nervous about the tests or the exams or that they miss their dog.”

Kreda said the work cannot be done by just any well-trained animal. Because of the various qualifications required for dogs to become therapy animals, Kreda highly values the services and support those animals can offer.

“I think there’s something remarkable (about it); I never take it for granted,” Kreda said. “An animal — a different species from us — can do so much for us as human beings.”

The Week of Balance offers an array of different activities, from sessions with therapy dogs and miniature ponies, to knitting and gaming breaks. 

Soder pointed out the late-night coffee break, where students can take a break from studying to enjoy coffee and bagels. The coffee break is scheduled to take place on the first reading day from 10 p.m. to 12 a.m.

Because all of UNC’s libraries have their own events for the Week of Balance, students can easily find events that suit their needs.

“All libraries do their own programming,” Soder said. “We just try to have a wide range of events that can help students practice the self-care that is so important during this high-stress time.”


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