Notes from the New England Lifelong Access Libraries Institute, Part 2
On Tuesday we all made our way to the Newton Free Library to begin a full day of presentations. All of the powerpoints for the below presentations can be found on this page, toward the bottom.
After breakfast, Diantha Schull, who recently stepped down as President of Libraries For the Future (LFF) to devote herself more fully to LFF’s Lifelong Access initiative, kicked off the morning’s activities by giving us a portrait of today’s active older adults. She challenged us to examine our preconceptions and integrate some new ideas into our library services, especially those for “boomers,” those born between 1946 and 1964 who constitute the largest generation in U.S. history. (I’m guessing the term “baby boomers” isn’t used much these days, since most of us are over 50!)
She tied in the paradigm changes libraries must undergo to better serve the 50+ population and discussed the related changes happening nationwide in senior centers, higher education, volunteer agencies, and businesses of all types. Even if our libraries are full, we have to think about who in the community is not using them, and why not. . .
Diantha remarked that library schools would do well to teach classes on 50+ librarianship as they do for other age cohorts.
Diantha’s presentation demonstrated why we should—and must—re-think some of what we do at our libraries, showed us some ways others have done so and, perhaps most importantly, encouraged us to use creativity and imagination to develop needed programs and services for our unique communities.
Susan Irving, Manager of the St. Matthews-Eline branch of the Louisville (KY) Free Public Library, spoke next, treating us to the first of several “Stories from the Field” we would enjoy during the day. She began by laying out the path to changes they took: networking at a state “Elder Readiness Initiative,” observing patron trends, and analyzing community demographics. Then we heard about an amazing array of programs that have happened at the St. Matthews-Eline branch, covering such topics such as humor, hiking, retirement readiness, creativity, puzzle play, re-careering, and intergenerational communication. They even have a Senior Savvy Radio Broadcast!
How did they manage all this? Susan shared a few of the secrets of their success. First of all, she used some lessons she had learned in the Lifelong Access Institute in 2006: active older adults have acquired wisdom, which can become active wisdom if the library engages them in meaningful activities. During the planning process, the library sought out people with expertise to volunteer their time to speak at these programs. The library does not do the programming—they facilitate it. All of this has been done with no money spent by the library, and I have no doubt it has benefited the Louisville community greatly.