Halifax Public Libraries is introducing a new technology that can help treat a type of depression people experience in the fall and winter.

Community members can borrow light therapy lamps, which are used to treat seasonal affective disorder (SAD) by exposure to artificial light.

"We had a request for light therapy lamps, and we looked across the country and realized that Toronto Public Library and Winnipeg Public Library had already started light therapy lamps," said Kathleen Peverill, director of public service at Halifax Public Libraries.

"So we thought it was a great way of meeting our community's request," she added. 

'They're not the easiest to purchase'

The library recommends people who are experiencing symptoms of SAD such as fatigue, sadness, weight gain, poor sleep and social withdrawal see a doctor before using the lamp because there may be other causes for these symptoms.

"We do know that there has been an increase in seasonal affective disorder, so people are looking for these lamps," said Dave MacNeil, manager of collections and access at Halifax Public Libraries.

"They're not the easiest to purchase, nor are they the cheapest, so our thought is to let people try them at the library and see for themselves if it has any effect on them," he added.

Portable light therapy lamp

Smaller light therapy lamps are available for borrowing with a Halifax Public Libraries card for three weeks at a time. (Craig Paisley/CBC)

About two to five per cent of Canadians suffer from SAD, while 10 to 15 per cent may experience milder symptoms.

For now, at least one light therapy lamp is available for use at each of the 14 branches. Full-sized lamps can be booked for reading and working inside the library, and smaller lamps are available for borrowing with a Halifax Public Libraries card for three weeks at a time.

Beyond Books

More than 56 holds have been placed for light therapy lamps since they were introduced on Nov. 7.

They're the second most popular item in the library's Beyond Books collection after radon detectors, which now have a wait-list of more than 547 people.

Some of the other items included in the library's collection are pedometers, energy-saving meters and video game consoles and controllers.

"There's definitely going to be more Beyond Book-type items in the coming months and next year," said MacNeil.