26 Sept 2023

Evolving with Energy: Enhancing Spaces for Students at the Glucksman Library at the University of Limerick

Libfocus is delighted to present the winning post for the CONUL Training and Development Library Assistant Blog Awards 2023. The author is Maeve Shanahan, Library Assistant at University of Limerick.

We tend to think of libraries as unchangeable brick-and-mortar places. This idea gives us comfort in a rapidly changing world, and libraries remain a steadfast academic refuge for many. I think back on my student days at the University of Limerick (UL), writing and researching for my master’s dissertation in the library. Those caffeine-fuelled late nights, spent in commiseration with my fellow students, are now fond memories. 

As I’ve become a staff member at the Glucksman Library, my perspective has changed, and so has the UL Library. With expanded digital resources and a physical extension to the building, the Glucksman Library of 2023 is almost unrecognizable to my past student self. If I didn’t work here as a Library Assistant, I’d be jealous of all the new spaces students get to experience.

Since 2018, in addition to doubling the amount of available study space, introducing smart systems like the Automated Storage and Retrieval System (ASRS) to store books, and creating novel learning spaces for collaborative work, the Library has kept a close eye on student’s evolving needs.

Students gathered around a table in the Glucksman Library
05.06.2019 University of Limerick, Glucksman Library Digital Scholarship. Photo by Alan Place.

More Than Books
As we prepare for the new semester and a new cohort of students, we acknowledge that for many, the UL Library has become more than a study space. Students are seeking out alternative spaces to just be—the cost of living is increasing, so students are commuting in, or sharing crowded rental homes (Cathal, 2022). The Glucksman Library provides students with reliable WiFi, group study rooms, temperature-controlled air, soft seating options, late opening hours, and a café right outside our access gates. We have become the place where students can work, attend online lectures, relax, and re-energize. 

As COVID restrictions disappear in the country’s rear-view, the University of Limerick has turned its focus onto directly impacting student’s mental health and wellbeing. UL officially signed the charter for Healthy Ireland earlier this year with the Higher Education Authority. As the campus continues its commitments to better the health of students and staff through Healthy UL promotional initiatives, the Glucksman Library, with guidance from the Library Spaces Manager, a librarian in the Collections & Spaces team, has turned its attention to promoting student’s wellbeing within the Library itself. With the goal of improving mental and physical health, the UL Library has recently acquired ten standing desks, three desk bikes, and two MetroNaps EnergyPods for students to use. It is well documented in decades of research that students need rest to help improve academic performance and maintain positive mental health (Zhou et al., 2022).

EnergyPods & Their Benefits
Imagine how nice it would be to be able to safely take a twenty-minute break during a hectic workday if you were feeling overwhelmed, or not awake enough to drive home. It sounds too good to be true! I once suffered from a migraine in between college lectures and had to nap on a mud trodden carpeted floor in a high-traffic hallway. I certainly could have used an EnergyPod during my time as a student.

MetroNaps EnergyPods are described by their creators as “the world’s first office nap chair.” Although they look like something out of a sci-fi film, EnergyPods are modern chairs designed for relaxation, with a privacy visor, reclining leg rest, and a speaker/headset for calming music and meditations. Users can rest for up to twenty minutes at a time.

A MetroNap EnergyPod in the Glucksman Library.
21.07.2023. MetroNaps EnergyPod in Glucksman Library. Photos by Maeve Shanahan.

The Library in the University Hospital Limerick installed an EnergyPod in 2020 and found it successful in battling fatigue and stress in student doctors (Mindo, 2020). In a recent study of 93 NHS staff members using the EnergyPods during night shifts, researchers surveyed the staff before and after using the EnergyPod for three months. The results concluded with 81% of NHS staff feeling more alert and 83% were more energized after their twenty-minute rest (Dore et al., 2021). 

Starting in university is a time of intense change and stress. Academic pressure, social pressures, and personal issues can affect student’s mental health. As students spend more time in the Library, we want to help them maintain good physical and mental health. We hope that by introducing EnergyPods to the Library, we will help students relax during high stress times, and allow our users to embrace the Glucksman as more than a book-filled brick building.

Cathal (2022). “UL Student Life release stark findings from their Accommodation Survey.” UL Student Life. 21 August. Available at: https://www.ulstudentlife.ie/ulstudentlife_accommodationsurvey/ (Accessed: 26 July 2023).

Dore, Eoin et al. (2021). “Sleep is the best medicine: How rest facilities and EnergyPods can improve staff wellbeing.” Future Healthcare Journal, 8(3) pp. 625–628 [Online]. Available at: https://doi:10.7861/fhj.2020-0261 (Accessed: 26 July 2023).

Mindo (2020). “‘Energy pod’ launched in Limerick to fight fatigue in hospital staff.” The Medical Independent, 31 July. Available at: https://www.medicalindependent.ie/in-thenews/breaking-news/energy-pod-launched-in-limerick-to-fight-fatigue-in-hospital-staff/ (Accessed: 26 July 2023).

Zhou, Jingxin et al. (2022) “Research trends in college students' sleep from 2012 to 2021: A bibliometric analysis.” Frontiers in Psychiatry, 13, 20 Sep. Available at: https://doi:10.3389/fpsyt.2022.1005459 (Accessed: 26 July 2023).


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