Active workstations at Phoenix libraries attract an after-school crowd

Lowell Elementary sixth grader Betsy Corral uses the active workstation at Harmon Library. She can get some exercise walking while using the computer. Harmon is one of three Phoenix Public Libraries to install the workstations. (Photo by Audrey Weil/Cronkite News)

At first, sixth grader Betsy Corral thought the new treadmill at Harmon Library was just for adults. She was ecstatic when she found out it wasn’t.

“I was like, I think this is only for grown-ups, so I didn’t even bother to ask to use it. But then when I started seeing other kids, I was always in line to go on it,” Corral said.

It’s an active workstation, a treadmill attached to a standing desk with a computer. The desk goes up and down to fit different heights, and the treadmill allows for a slow walk, between .5 and 2 miles per hour. Harmon, Palo Verde and Yucca libraries have active workstations, available on a first-come, first-served basis for 30 minutes at a time.

“The librarian has watched us be lazy for a long time so they got this so we can exercise and use the computer at the same time,” Corral said.

Corral is one of many students from Lowell Elementary School who walks across the street to Harmon Library when school gets out.

“They say it makes them want to come to the library more than usual,” she said.

“In the office world, I guess you could say that these standing desks have been a trend for some time now and also active workstations, so we’re just trying to be on that trend,” said Jill Mason, Communications Librarian for Phoenix Public Library. “We’re always trying to find new and innovative ways to engage the community, and this is just one more example of that.”

The stations are part of a Super Bowl Legacy grant awarded to Mayo Clinic ASU Obesity Solutions Initiative, FitPHX, and the Phoenix Parks and Recreation Department, to promote healthy, active communities.

“When you’re sedentary, there are certain negative effects that can happen to the body, particularly if you’re sedentary for more than four hours, so this enables you to get up, you can move, you can walk at whatever pace you want,” said Deborah Williams, Associate Director of Mayo Clinic ASU Obesity Solutions Initiative. “This is as much supporting your body as it is supporting your mind so I think it’s really a fantastic initiative.”

The treadmills were unveiled a few weeks ago and have already racked up more than 300 miles in total walking distance.

At Harmon library, the active workstation has been most popular with students, but Corral said soon, her mom might be joining the fun: “She said that she wanted to get a library card too, to come and exercise.”