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Labyrinths of Light in Public Libraries: The New Ally of Academia


Sparq Meditation Labyrinth projects labyrinths of light in libraries as an alternative to procrastination and as the perfect promoter of lucidity.

The Sparq Meditation Labyrinth is temporarily housed under the stairs of the Bizzell Memorial Library at the University of Oklahoma. It is the first of a series of portable installations that will project labyrinths of light onto the floor using theater spots.

In an era when the Internet is the perfect double-edged sword: both the best ally and the worst enemy of students, any attempt to alleviate the vulnerable condition of a student is an invaluable effort. Curiously, sometimes the best option is to reclaim resources from the past as they necessarily break with a rhythm and a system that is already inundated by itself. In the case of the resource of the labyrinth, which occupies a space in the physical plain and of course the metaphysical one, and which sharply contrasts with Internet pages that offer techniques for relaxation and concentration when perhaps what one needs is, first of all, to take a breather from the virtual universe.

Students are given the option of getting out of their chairs when they are beginning to become distracted and, without having to leave the library, take a stroll through the labyrinth of their choice (the interface allows the user to elect the labyrinth they most fancy among all the various designs) to then return to a lucid and tranquil state for both the body and the mind. The labyrinth, in short, is a meditation technique that can break through the limitations of productivity itself.

It is worth recalling that medieval cathedrals incorporated walking labyrinths as a tool for contemplation guided by a superior power. It was a way of feeling the body, which is the maximum representation of the present, while being able to concentrate on a specific motif without procrastinating too much. The creators of Sparq, Matt Cook and Janet Brennan Croft, explain the whys and wherefores of the labyrinth:

The effects of labyrinth-walking on mental well-being are wide-ranging, overwhelmingly positive, and increasingly well-documented. The data indicates that a large percentage of test subjects experience significant drops in the intensity of negative psychological states (i.e., agitation, anxiety, stress) after walking the labyrinth. Labyrinth-walking also tended to improve positive mental states, with a majority of subjects reporting increased calmness, clarity, peacefulness, and relaxation.

With this project, which is just beginning to take shape, the creators wanted to respond to the current proliferation of stress, mental distraction and physical fatigue in a way that is best combined with the atmosphere of academia.

In the contemporary academic library, both user and staff experiences are centered on the computer, a constant source of information and distraction, data, and diversion. Computer users suffer from attention deficit, pulled this way and that by competing bids for their attention; inability to concentrate affects their performance. […] Other learning styles are stifled in the computer-centric environment, particularly kinetic styles. Further, computer users are subject to a great deal of stress, tension, isolation, and fatigue, even if they do not realize it.

One way to overcome these limitations to productivity is by promoting mindful meditation techniques.

The questions they faced when designing the labyrinths to make them most effective for academics were: Does the design of a labyrinth impact its effectiveness? Would it be possible to test the effects of walking the pattern of a labyrinth in contrast with the pattern of another? But as well as projecting a beautiful selection of them, the initiative is also generating a focal point of their symbols, history and aesthetics. The Bizzell Memorial Library brought together all of its books on labyrinths, including from the literary, mythological, history, landscape design, mathematics and science genres, and placed them on the shelves to invite people to immerse themselves in them.


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