By Emma Reilly
College students are busy people. Balancing classes, clubs, sports, and study time can be challenging. The last thing a stressed-out senior or frazzled freshman wants to do in their free time is read another book.
At Washington College, this is not entirely the case. Despite being assigned dense readings for class and managing busy schedules, some WC students demonstrated their interest in recreational reading.
“I started at WC in July 2019, and one of the questions that students began asking me immediately — in class, in research appointments, at the desk — was where are the fun books?” Director of Public Services Amanda Darby said.
In response to this student feedback, the Clifton M. Miller Library welcomed the Diversions Collection this semester. The collection is made up of an array of popular fiction and nonfiction works that students can check out and enjoy recreationally, and has been in the works since before the COVID-19 pandemic.
“We are an academic library and most of our collection…is for research, but we would be doing students a disservice if we said you were only here to do research,” Darby said.
According to Darby, the goal of the new collection is to expand the number of non-academic books available to students and to encourage leisurely reading.
The collection is a success so far.
“Since the collection has been live, 25% of the titles have circulated, which is pretty high for a collection that only went live a few months ago,” Darby said.
Though some students are taking advantage of the College’s endeavor, others may feel like it isn’t worthwhile to spend precious free time with their nose in a book. While bookworms may lament that college life prevents them from settling down with something enjoyable to read, not everyone feels the same way.
Academic burnout can make students feel like they should make the most of their time off. Those who see reading as an extension of studying will turn to socialization, television, or something else entirely before they ever even think of reading a novel.
This is why WC should continue to update and expand the Diversions Collection over time. Reading for fun can benefit students and alleviate some of the stress of college life.
While many college students may lack the time — and often the interest — to read a book that hasn’t been assigned for class, reading for pleasure can improve one’s physical and mental health.
According to Healthline, reading boosts brain function, increases one’s ability to be empathetic, and soothes anxiety and stress.
According to Healthline, “Researchers have confirmed that reading involves a complex network of circuits and signals in the brain. As your reading ability matures, those networks also get stronger and more sophisticated.”
Reading recreationally can also provide students with a much-needed outlet for relaxation.
“I think reading recreationally is good on many levels…the obvious benefit is that you take some time away from your research [and] from the stuff you have to do and do something you want to do [instead]. If we can provide an outlet for that, that’s great,” Darby said.
Diversions should encourage WC students to make time, even just a little, for recreational reading. The resources are available, now more than ever, and their benefits are too overwhelming to be ignored.
The next time you have an hour to yourself, consider checking out a book you — not just your professor — are interested in. Take a step away from the fast-paced academic day-to-day, sit down, and relax. You never know where a good book could take you — and you might just find the time well-spent.
Photo by Izze Rios
Featured Photo Caption: Junior Jon Kelly relaxes while enjoying a good book. Reading recreationally is a great way for students to unwind and de-stress.