Library gnomes offer stress relief during finals week

A+gnome+cutout+greets+students+as+they+enter+the+library%2C+a+reminder+of+the+dead+quiet+study+zone+enforced+during+finals+week+and+an+invitation+to+explore+the+gnome+stations+scattered+around+the+library.

Selina Xu

A gnome cutout greets students as they enter the library, a reminder of the “dead quiet study zone” enforced during finals week and an invitation to explore the gnome stations scattered around the library.

by Trisha Iyer, Selina Xu, and Sarah Mohammed

Ruminating at home one day, upper school library assistant Kelley McCoy gazed upon a small statue of a pint-sized gnome reading a book equal its size. An idea came to her in a flash: why not harness the power of the cute mythical creatures for a larger purpose? The library gnomes were born — or rather, created at the hands of one librarian determined to provide momentary mental reprieve for the students who came to the library to study for finals. 

Six strategically placed gnomes currently dot the library, each offering a different activity for students to take a break from the rigor of final exams. One station consists of a bowl of fidget blocks, while another offers coloring pages, dot-to-dot exercises and other stress-relieving activities. With silvery flowing beards and draping wizard hats, the gnomes serve as a serene reminder for students to take care of their mental health during a time as stressful as finals week. 

McCoy was inspired to curate these gnome stations by her mother, who collects gnomes, and from her previous experience programming at libraries. She has a firm belief in breaks, meditation and rest as a way for students to refocus during stressful times and improve their retention of the material that they study. 

“I used to do programming at libraries and learned that students need breaks to refocus—there’s better retention when you take a break,” McCoy said. “By searching for the gnomes around the library [and participating in the station activities], students can engage in meditation and a refocusing of the mind, which embodies the library’s principles.” 

The gnome stations will be open until today.