Anyone who's suffered through finals week knows just how stressful it can be.
You stay up way too late. You're trying to cram into your brain information you should have learned months ago. And everyone around you is on edge, too.
But bring puppies into the mix and, at least for a moment, the stress evaporates. Just ask Jon Christopher, an environmental science major at California Lutheran University in Thousand Oaks, Calif.
"There's nothing more relaxing than an entire closure of puppies," said Christopher, surrounded by 10 pups in the campus library. "This has been the highlight of my day. This is a stressful time."
The library brought in the puppies to help students ease their stress as they prepare for finals next week. Organizers also are offering yoga classes, free 10-minute massages and a paper airplane contest.
"Working in the library, you can feel the anxiety level leap," librarian Jennifer Petersen said. "This is a real stressful week for them. Next year, we're thinking of having an entire petting zoo."
The de-stress effort reflects a nationwide trend among universities, said Jo Ann Reynolds, a librarian at the University of Connecticut. This is the third year, UConn has brought therapy dogs into its library for finals week, Reynolds said.
"It's catching on a lot," Reynolds said. "We've had a lot of phone calls, emails from librarians across the country."
The trend also reflects a broader effort to make college libraries more inviting, said Steven Bell, incoming president of the Association of College and Research Libraries.
"We're trying to reposition the library as a fun place where unexpected things can happen," Bell said. "We want students to feel like the library is a place where they want to be, rather than where they have to be. If we don't create the right kind of environment, they're going to go to Starbucks."
The puppies at Catholic Lutheran University come from Puppies and Reptiles for Parties, a company that goes to 25 colleges a year, "especially when it's finals time," said Ililanna Nwosu.
As students walked into the library, most stopped to at least smile at the puppies. And quite a few climbed into the enclosure, cooing at the pups, snuggling with them and grimacing when they got wet dog kisses.
They climbed out visibly more relaxed.
"They made me really happy," said freshman Grace Stepien. "I'm starting to get stressed about everything. I think I'd like to do yoga tomorrow. That would be nice."
(Contact Jean Cowden Moore of the Ventura County Star in California at JCMoore@)vcstar.com