By Brian Johnston, Head of Public Services and Natalie Isham, Children’s Librarian
As public librarians, we are not just the gatekeepers to information, but also centerpieces for community engagement. As part of our local communities, we are aware of current trends in the world that affect the population as a whole. One way to stay informed is by reading official publications from major library organizations, such as the Public Library Association, American Library Association, or the Association for Library Service to Children. Recently, Public Libraries, the official magazine to the Public Library Association, published an article titled, “The Power of Community Outreach: Meeting the Demands of the Growing Senior Population.” This blog entry will serve as a brief review of an interesting article addressing a current trend that is changing the shape of our communities.
By 2030, according to the Administration on Aging, 19.3 percent of the population will be aged sixty-five years or older. That is 72.1 million Americans, more than twice the number as in 2000 and about 6 percent higher than in 2010. How do these changes in demographics affect our libraries and communities, and what can libraries do to serve this growing population?
The authors of the article point to outreach services. Outreach can be defined as different services libraries offer to engage in the community directly, as opposed to services which are tied to the library structure. Examples include collaboration with community schools and homeschoolers, participation in community events like fairs and festivals, volunteering, and community service. Library outreach is a fluid service that is defined by its impact on the community and not necessarily on the service being performed.
Our library has addressed the demand for services that fulfill the needs of our senior population. For example:
- Our Doorstep Program has grown dramatically over the past few years. Through this program, library staff and volunteers deliver books to patrons in Lincoln, Royalton, and Baroda townships. We even deliver regularly to a couple of local assisted living facilities.
- We regularly host computer training programs on beginning and advanced internet topics, as well as on Microsoft Office programs. Many seniors who need assistance with technology take advantage of these programs.
- We also have Tech Help twice a week, where patrons can come in to get one-on-one help with their computers, smartphones, or other devices. This program is beneficial to seniors who are new to such technology.
- We have hosted programs on topics such as Estate Planning and Elder Law.
- We have collaborated with a local senior center on recreational programming.
- We continue to purchase quality large print books and spoken word books, so that patrons who have trouble reading regular-sized print books have other options.
At Lincoln Township Public Library, we will continue to serve the seniors in our community through the methods listed above, and we will also investigate new services as they become available. As this segment of the population continues to grow, it will only become more important that we expand our services to them.
Kelsey, David J. “The Power of Community Outreach: Meeting the Demands of the Growing Senior Population.” Public Libraries, March/April 2017, pgs. 27-30.