22 Apr 2021

Eight tips to managing your wellbeing during Covid times.

Guest post by Laura Gallagher. Laura works part time in the Digital Publishing and Data Services section in Maynooth University Library.  She's a busy mum of three.  In her spare time shes goes for a run or a long cycle.  She loves the countryside and getting out into the open fresh air.     

In this blog post, I outline the importance of managing your wellbeing during Covid times and share with you eight tips that I have learnt over the past few months. These have helped me manage working from home with balancing home schooling (or the new found term ‘Emergency Schooling’), life and exercise. I make suggestions on how you can make these tips work for you. 

It’s important to realise that while we are all going through this pandemic together, how we are going through it differs from person to person and experience to experience.  The best advice that I have read over and over is simple, just four small words -  however we are feeling and whatever experience we are going through like everything else in life “This too will pass”.

  1. 1. Adequate Sleep A simple yet important tip.  Sleep is important for our physical and mental health.  A good restful night’s sleep sets you up for the day ahead however busy it may be. The HSE website recommends that Most people need between 5 to 9 hours sleep a night. The ideal amount is 8 hours, but everyone's different.  When I have difficulty sleeping I try to read a chapter of my book and if that doesn’t work I imagine I am on a beach listening to the sound of the sea.  There is also a wide range of music for sleep and relaxation free of charge available on Youtube.

  1. 2. My second most important tip is to Eat Right.  Start the day with a healthy breakfast.  Sit down and take your lunch whether you are working or not.  Cook a dinner even if you are tired, you will be glad you did and allow yourself a treat without feeling guilty.  Lockdown for me has actually benefited my choice of eating as I love starting the day with porridge or eggs.  Before ‘Covid times’, I would race out the door with barely a coffee in my hand and wonder why I was so hungry later in the day.

  1. 3. Get some Exercise and Sunlight.  Make it exercise you enjoy so you will stick to it.  There is nothing better than getting outside for fresh air, be it a short walk on your own or with company or a cycle or that run you crave.  Exercise releases that ‘happy hormone’ and certainly improves your mood and allows you to think and clear your head.  Sunlight also improves your overall wellbeing.  Try get out during the day if you can even for 10 minutes.  The HSE advice is Regular exercise can help improve your sleep. But try to avoid exercise in the hour before bedtime.


  1. 4. Working From Home and Home Schooling - This has become the norm for a lot of us.  In the beginning I found myself with a laptop at the kitchen table with the kids screaming around me.  It was chaos.  Now I have my laptop set up in my ‘walk in wardrobe’.  It’s my space and I can think and work quite happily there.  I have set a ‘somewhat’ routine for home schooling.  It doesn’t always go to plan but for the best part it has worked.  It’s about finding a routine that works for you and your family and if it doesn’t always go to plan, most importantly, don’t get stressed about it!

  1. 5. My fifth tip is dealing with the dreaded Anxiety and managing Stress that Covid has brought to many.  This tip is definitely still a learning area for me.  It’s hard to sum up in a short tip.  Stress can be hard to ‘turn off’ for many.  Lately when I am feeling a little anxious or stressed, I find myself looking out the window to the furthest part my eyes will allow me see and I remind myself of a quote I heard from Mícheál Ó Muircheartaigh in an interview and he said “I never worry about things like that. Others spend a long time worrying about that, and worrying is not good for you. Most of the things you worry about never materialise.”  “I’d be a believer in that.”   I find this quote helps me to stop worrying about things and brings me back to my day.


  1. 6. Stay Connected with your family and friends.  It’s easy at the end of the day or week to just sit down and not want to talk to anyone.  By sending a quick text or making a quick call, you are not just connecting with your family and friends but you are reminding them that you are there if they need you and if you need them.  Afterall, there is nothing better than a good giggle with the people who know you best.  I love writing letters even short ones.  There is nothing better than receiving a handwritten letter or card in the post.  Dr Keith Gaynor, assistant professor in clinical psychology at the School of Psychology, UCD said ‘human beings worked better when we are connected.  This means the dreaded Zoom quiz and the awkward phone conversation when no one has anything to say, but these connections are important and much better than nothing at all.’ (Evening Hearld, Herald Health, Wednesday 3rd March ’21)     

  1. 7. Learn to relax a while.  Just breathe.  Listen to the clock ticking and the birds singing.  Listen to the lawn mower going in a distance and take the time, even if that time is two minutes to just relax and close your eyes.  It’s very easy to get caught in the race of your day.  This is a tip I’ve really only grown to know and appreciate recently and I think I will keep with me forever.  Listen to your favourite music or soak in a warm bath.  Watch a rerun of your favourite sports match.  Do something that you enjoy and you find relaxing.  It will help you unwind from the day and you will reap the benefits.

  1. 8. I deliberately left my eighth tip to last as I think this one is extremely important, Covid times or not.  My eighth and final tip Be kind to yourself.  If your work day didn’t go to plan and home schooling was a disaster or you never got outside, it doesn’t matter.  Tomorrow is another day.  Try and organise your next day by writing down a plan and see if that helps you work your day better.  Don’t be hard on yourself but try and learn from your ‘bad days’ to make better ‘good days’.  I don’t keep a diary, I tend to write a log on things I need to do, I even write ‘go for a walk’ to myself.  On the ‘good days’ where everything goes smoothly, remember them and remind yourself of them when you are having a bad day.  I love Dermot Kennedy’s cover of ‘Days Like This’, I think he really brings the meaning of the song together.  Give it a listen and remember ‘when it’s not always raining, they’ll be days like this’.

So there you have it my eight tips to managing a better wellbeing during Covid times.  I hope you enjoyed reading this blog post.  By sharing my tips with you, I hope that you can take even just one tip, use it to your benefit and make it work for you.   

I know everyone’s experience of Covid times are different.  I certainly count myself lucky that I can work from home and try and balance the everyday’s of life.   I think I’ve learned to appreciate the small things and enjoy not having to race constantly from one place to another.  I often think that when things resume to the somewhat normal that we are used to, dare I say it, I might even miss this ‘quiet time’.


12 Apr 2021

Libraries of Sanctuary: Supporting Migrant Communities

Guest post by Louise Cooke-Escapil  Louise works as a Library Assistant at Maynooth University Library. She is interested in the social impact of libraries.


The City of Sanctuary is a collection of groups across the UK and Ireland - including theatres, schools, colleges, universities, churches, and gardens - that aim to build a culture of inclusiveness for incoming migrants. Specific organizations involved include Places of Sanctuary Ireland and, as of June 2020, Libraries of Sanctuary. The Library of Sanctuary title is awarded to libraries working to fill gaps in provision of information and resources to refugees and asylum seekers. Libraries playing this role is not novel, however the introduction of this title is a welcome step towards further developing public library services for those who may otherwise be left unseen.

Proto-Library of Sanctuary

It was this aspect of libraries working as powerful regenerative educational institutions that first drew me into librarianship as a profession in 2015. My first paid library job was in the Public Information Library in the Pompidou Centre in Paris. This experience shaped how I think about libraries and showed me the important social role they can play in people’s lives. In 2015, a new wave of migration into Europe had reached an all-time high. I worked in the autodidactic section of the library, where patrons came to borrow materials to help them learn new skills, such as driving, study skills for secondary school exams, or, most frequently, learning a language. I found myself working in a library in France that had more resources on learning Irish than my local library had back home in Ireland. If people chose to, they could borrow materials on learning up to 250 languages, including Sámi, Zulu, and Navajo to name a few. This section of the library also had a huge variety of materials, from books to CDs, DVDs, computer programmes, newspapers, magazines, and TV channels from 11 different countries.

Photograph: Pixabay

During the year I worked in the library, I realised how necessary this service was to many of the patrons. Before taking up this post, I had experienced language learning in a very different context. Learning a language was something people did out of love of the language or to be able to travel with greater ease. Now, many of the patrons who regularly came to my desk came to learn French out of necessity. Often, patrons could not speak French or English and did not have the means to ask for what they were looking for in the library. Word must have travelled and as more patrons would come up to our desk we quickly learnt to adapt. Myself and my desk colleagues started to keep a list of languages at the desk, each language written in its own script. We would ask the patron to go through the list until they identified a language, be it Arabic, Pashtu, Urdu, Farsi, or any of the other dozen languages we had listed. Once we had determined the patron’s mother tongue, we would find language-learning materials for them and set them up at a work desk. Eventually, those who kept returning would be able to ask for the materials they wanted in French. It was so rewarding to see patrons’ progress month by month as they moved on to more difficult materials, grew more confident in their abilities, and became more fluent in French.

Home to Ireland

After my time in France, I worked for a short spell at King’s College London. That was cut short by COVID-19. In January of this year, I took up a post in Engagement and Information Services (EIS) at Maynooth University. Returning to Ireland, I was delighted to see similar work to that I had encountered in Paris. Last year, Maynooth University became a University of Sanctuary and we currently have three students who live in Direct Provision undertaking degrees.

Libraries of Sanctuary

New initiatives such as Libraries of Sanctuary are encouraging libraries across the UK and Ireland to strengthen their services to refugees and asylum seekers. Like the Public Information Library in Paris, Libraries of Sanctuary have identified a new need, particularly pronounced over the last few decades, to pay particular attention to emerging communities in their locale, as well as existing ones. A resource pack, created by John Vincent, was released in June 2020 which gives libraries interested in this initiative a roadmap towards being recognised as a Library of Sanctuary.

The first Irish library to qualify for this title was Portlaoise Library on the 10th of March 2020. Librarians worked with communities from the local Direct Provision Centre to foster a space where everyone in the community could find tools and resources which were tailored to them (City of Sanctuary, 2021). At the award ceremony, County Librarian Bernie Folan said on the day;

“Places of Sanctuary is a movement that seeks to promote a culture of welcome in every sphere of society, a network of places of sanctuary where refugees and migrants are welcomed and included. We know that newcomers have a lot to offer, and we believe that as barriers come down and connections are made, the whole of society benefits” (Kiernan, 2020)

Photograph: cityofsanctuary.org

Going Forward

Libraries are in a unique position in that they are situated in almost every village and town in Ireland. Library staff are reaching out to migrant communities in their area and provide much needed services. They are a bridge for new communities, providing services to all. The first library to be awarded this the title of Library of Sanctuary, Thimblemill Library in the West Midlands in England, offered a number of services to emerging communities in their area such as ESOL classes for those who wanted to improve their English, welfare and asylum sessions to help with the mental and physical impacts seeking asylum can cause, and “Welcome to Your Area” events that aim to introduce locals to each other and allow newcomers to feel welcome (Vincent & Clark, 2020). It’s exciting to see this work being recognised and encouraged in libraries. Over the next few years, I hope many more libraries all over Ireland will continue to develop their services for refugees and asylum seekers. Public libraries have a key role in creating an inclusive and welcoming society.

More information on moving forward with qualifying for the title of Library of Sanctuary can be found at the Irish City of Sanctuary group’s contact us page. The Library Association of Ireland’s Career Development Group will also be holding an information evening later this year where John Vincent, the creator of the Libraries of Sanctuary resource pack, along with other speakers, will discuss the process of qualifying for the Library of Sanctuary title. In order to be the first to hear about booking information for this event, be sure to sign up to the LAI’s Career Development Group’s mailing list, or follow them on Twitter and Facebook.


Kiernan, L., 2020. Launch: Multicultural Portlaoise to receive Library of Sanctuary award. [online] Leinsterexpress.ie. [Accessed 9 March 2021].

Places of Sanctuary Ireland. 2021. Portlaoise Celebrates Ireland’s First Library of Sanctuary. [online] [Accessed 9 March 2021].

Sinnott Solicitors. 2015. Direct Provision 'A Severe Violation of Human Rights' - Sinnott Solicitors. [online]  [Accessed 9 March 2021].

Vincent, J., 2020. Libraries of Sanctuary Resource Pack. [ebook] City of Sanctuary. Available at: [Accessed 9 March 2021].

Vincent, J. and Clark, B., 2020. Libraries of Sanctuary. Alexandria: The Journal of National and International Library and Information Issues, 30(1), pp.6-7.

6 Apr 2021

An Exhibition of African Women Writers at Maynooth University Library

Guest Post by Edel King (MLIS from UCD, 2015). She currently works as a Library Assistant in the Engagement and Information Services Department in Maynooth University Library.

Image by Elaine Bean

The Why?

World Book Day took place this year on Thursday, March 4th. It is a celebration of writers and books from around the world. Myself and two of my colleagues were tasked with creating an online exhibition of African Women Writers to celebrate World Book Day at Maynooth University Library. 

One of the six themes of  Maynooth University Library’s Strategic Plan 2020-2023 is Equality, Diversity & Interculturalism. A task under this theme is to,“ensure a diverse range of Library exhibitions and events that reflect both our increasingly diverse university community and national developments”. Organising this exhibit for World Book Day contributed to the action under this task. 

The theme of African Women Writers was chosen for a variety of reasons. The University offers Post-Colonial Studies as part of its English Degree programme. There are also quite a number of African authors in the library collection due to a 2020 initiative with the lecturer of the aforementioned programme to identify and acquire a larger selection of novels by African writers. That initiative was also part of our Library Strategic Plan, where one of the key themes is Collections and a task under that theme is,“we will work with the campus community to ensure our collections are inclusive”.

One of the Writers included in the Exhibition

The How?

I work in the Engagement and Information Services (EIS) department of Maynooth University Library and my two colleagues on the project, David Rinehart and Adam Staunton, both work in the Special Collections and Archives department. Working on this project gave me an opportunity to get to know them as, like everyone, the majority of us in the library have been working from home and the two of them started in the library relatively recently.

Due to social distancing restrictions, we met online only. We met at least once a week via Microsoft Teams.  

Image by Elaine Bean

We chose the writers to include in the exhibition from a list given to us of African Women Writers. We divided the list amongst the three of us and checked holdings in the catalogue. We endeavoured to include writers from as many different countries as possible. We also consulted the Caine prize for African Writing and selected a few writers for inclusion from there. In total we had 15 writers from 13 African countries.

After we had chosen the writers, we divided them between us and wrote 100 word biographies on each. We then sourced images. For each writer we included an image of the writer, a map of Africa with their country highlighted, and book covers of a selection of their writings available in the Maynooth University catalogue. 

We had many discussions over how to source the book covers. We did screenshots from the catalogue but the quality of these images varied and were, for the most part, poor. We also sourced some covers from Amazon and GoodReads. 

Our colleague Elaine Bean created wonderfully creative collages (that you can see in this post) that we were able to include at various points of the exhibition.

Once we had all of that material gathered and prepared, we started using an application called Sway. I had never used the application before, but I am quite proficient with new technology and so a demonstration from one of my colleagues along with some practice time and I was confident enough to use it.


Sway offers a very dynamic way of exhibiting book covers using a feature called Stacks. The covers are layered on top of each other and a click of the mouse allows the user to move through them. 

We had decisions to make regarding vertical vs horizontal layout (we opted for horizontal), font size and type. However, I will say, while it was a great application to work with and gave us what we needed, Sway is limited in its creative scope. 

Then it was just a matter of putting all of the information in, proofreading, moving things around and making further smaller creative decisions.


We worked well together as a team, all of us speaking up and making decisions together that everyone was happy with. 

We launched the exhibition on World Book Day and highlighted it on social media. We were delighted to get a retweet from one of the authors included and a comment from another. 

Below is a list of the authors included with a selection of their titles. To view the exhibition please click here.

Exhibition Bibliography

Leila Aboulela (Egypt)

Bird Summons (2019)

Coloured Lights (2001)

Elsewhere, Home (2018)

The Kindness of Enemies (2015)

Lyrics Alley (2010)

Minaret (2005)

The Translator (1999)

Ama Ata Aidoo (Ghana)

Changes: A Love Story (1991)

Our Sister Killjoy (1977)

Mariama Bâ (Senegal)

Scarlet Song (1981)

So Long a Letter (1980)

Doreen Baingana (Uganda)

Tropical Fish (2005)

Lauren Beukes (South Africa)

Afterland (2020) 

Broken Monsters (2015) 

Maverick: Extraordinary Women from South Africa's Past (2004) 

Moxyland (2008) 

The Shining Girls (2013) 

Zoo City (2018) 

Oyinkan Braithwaite (Nigeria)

My Sister, the serial killer (2018)

Assia Djebar (Algeria)

Ces voix qui m’assiegent: en marge de ma francophonie (1999)

The Tongue’s Blood does not Run Dry: Algerian Stories (1997)

Aminatta Forna (Sierra Leone)

Ancestor Stones (2006)

The Devil that Danced on the Water (2002)

The Memory of Love (2010)

Petina Gappah (Zimbabwe)

The Book of Memory (2015) 

An Elegy for Easterly: Stories (2009) 

Out of Darkness: Shining Light (2019)

Rotten Row (2016) 

Meron Hadero (Ethiopia)

A Down Home Meal for These Difficult Times (2018)

The Drought That Drowned Us (2020)

Medallion (2020)

Sinkholes (2017)

The Suitcase (2015)

Bessie Head (Botswana)

Maru (1971)

A Question of Power (1973)

Serowe, village of the rain wind (1981)

A Woman Alone: autobiographical writings (2007)

Laila Lalami (Morocco)

Hope and other dangerous pursuits (2005)

The moor’s account (2014)

The Other Americans (2019)

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie (Nigeria)

Americanah (2013)

Half of a Yellow Sun (2006)

Purple Hibiscus: A Novel (2003)

Makena Onjerika (Kenya)

Fanta Blackcurrant (2017)

Zoë Wicomb (South Africa)

Boy in a Jute-Sack Hood (2007) 

David’s Story (2000) 

October (2015) 

The One That Got Away (2008) 

Playing in the Light (2006) 

Race, Nation, Translation: South African Essays, 1990-2013 (2018) 

You Can’t Get Lost in Cape Town (1987) 

Posted on Tuesday, April 06, 2021 | Categories: