Last week, Cressell Spoo had a 20-page paper to write, a final exam to study for, and a presentation to deliver that her upcoming graduation hinged upon. She needed to manage all that in just a few days, and without her laptop, which had up and died on her earlier in the week.
It would be enough to send any other 22-year old screaming into the hills, but Spoo, a psychology major at UNC Charlotte, took her predicament in remarkable stride.
“It’s not a big deal,” she said, with a relaxed countenance that never seemed to waiver.
The librarians inside J. Murrey Atkins Library like to think Spoo’s Zen-like attitude had something to do with the four-legged creatures they brought in to help students relax and take a break during the normally stressful final exam week.
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Spoo had just spent a half-hour nuzzling a 90-pound Leonberger.
“I haven’t pet a dog in a year,” she said, the smile never leaving her face.
For the last few years, the librarians have begun creating different ways for students to unwind during exam time. Last year they supplied free drinks and coloring pages to their bleary-eyed patrons. This year they jumped on a new suggestion from former interim university librarian Carole Runnion, who after retirement launched Library Dog Therapy Group, an organization that takes therapy dogs to people in stressful situations.
“It’s just another way to help them breathe,” said Shelly Theriault, communications and marketing manager at Atkins. “Many students I do not think have necessarily learned a lot of self-soothing techniques yet.”
Tucked in the corner of the library, students could pet, stroke, and play with different breeds, both large and small.
Devon Lita, 23, took a break from studying for his dying and bereavement final exam to watch a German shepherd catch a Frisbee over and over again.
“I felt a little fatigued,” he said after hours of studying. After a few minutes, he returned to his class notes recharged.
“I love dogs, so when someone told me there were dogs I was excited,” said Allyson Frazier, 22, an international public relations and Spanish double major, who stroked a drowsy Shelty to sleep. “Usually when I take breaks I just walk around the library. This is new. It’s definitely different to hang out with the dogs.”
A steady crowd gathered around the pets. Those who spent a few minutes working their fingers through the fur of a shih tzu or a border collie would return to their studies refreshed.
“I’m sure they are really tired. They just need a break,” said Jean Hiebart, Health and Human Services librarian.
Besides the dogs, librarians also set up a break room with free coffee, candy and activities. Inside, students could be seen squeezing Play-Doh, playing pingpong, or simply taking a quick nap on complimentary throwaway pillows.
They are the better ways to relax, said Hiebart, who often sees students who normally don’t smoke sit on the benches outside Atkins Library and light up for the first time around finals week.
“They need someone to mother them a little bit, so that’s what we do,” said Hiebart.