The Chestermere Public Library is showing the community they care for resident’s well-being through the Library Cares Initiative.
Through grant opportunities available from the Chestermere Community Grants program, the Chestermere Public Library has launched a two-part project to support mental health in the community.
“It’s been very clear to us through the last year that members of the community have had some struggles with mental health because of the pandemic,” said the Chestermere Public Library Executive Director, Miranda Johnson.
“The library does care, we see it every day, people are hurting, and we’re here. There’s a lot of theory about learning and learning in a caring environment, people learn when it’s relevant to them, and mental health is a huge topic,” she said.
The first part of the project is a Calm Box, where anyone in the community is welcome to collect a box that has calming and soothing items inside.
“When someone is having a bad moment, they can pull out the box. It’s a strategy, and to show that we care about them, and are there for them,” Johnson said.
The Calm Boxes can have anything from a mug, journal and pen, positive messaging, a plush toy, stickers, or colouring books.
“We made sure we had a diverse collection of boxes for our community. We took pictures of the contents and filled a book so people can find the one they want, and staff will help them get the box they want,” said the Chestermere Public Library Director of Service Delivery, Cathy Burness.
The second part of the project, Test Drive a Hobby, will be available in the fall where individuals can borrow the box to learn a new hobby.
“We’re not experts in mental health, but we have created a list of other resources, and community organizations that people can reach out to,” Johnson said.
The Chestermere Public Library team is also encouraging individuals to make their own Calm Boxes or add items to the ones they collected from the library.
“The idea is individuals can create their own calm box, the point was to pull out the box and the contents would be soothing, make people happy, and be a strategy to manage mental health and to remind the public we have a lot of resources to support mental health and wellbeing,” Johnson said.
Although the Calm Boxes have only been available for a couple of days, they have been received positively by the community.
“We have seen tears in eyes and smiles just with the little bit of exposure they have had so far. We do what we can to make sure people know that we are thinking about them because we really are,” Burness said.
“We see the library as a place of comfort and safety, and learning,” she added. “Not everyone thinks of us as their other living room, or the hub of their community, we’re a place of real caring, we’re not just going to find you a book, we’ll talk to you and help you with resources, and hopefully you feel better than when you got here.”