Diversity & Outreach Columns ALA's Office for Diversity, Literacy and Outreach Services


Serving Older Adults @ Your Library

By Kathy Mayo, Manager of Community Access Services, Lee County (FL) Library System.

Welcome to a new column on the American Library Association/Office for Literacy and Outreach Services (ALA/OLOS) web site. As part of its effort to provide useful information to librarians and library staff involved with outreach activities, OLOS is offering you several new columns from the field.

If you are an ALA member, you’ve probably noticed that no one division addresses all of your needs for outreach and literacy-related activities. OLOS is becoming a resource for covering many issues that relate to both literacy and outreach services. The Office works closely with the divisions, too, helping to enhance and promote our common agendas.

This column will appear every 4-6 weeks to address some of the hot issues and trends, service delivery methods, and best practices in the field of library service for older adults. I won’t be doing this alone. Two people from my library will be working with me: Marylou Tuckwiller, Talking Books subregional Librarian (including assistive technology) and Tom Edwards, Coordinator of Senior Outreach (deposit collections and programming kits). We’ll be sharing some of our views and experiences and looking for people in the field who will make their own contributions.

If your responsibilities are similar to mine, this is only part of your job. You may also be involved with serving persons with disabilities, new immigrants, low income families, inmates at correctional facilities, etc. We’ll try to provide you with some useful information that will help with the “older adult” part of your job – which is often intermingled with the other services and constituents you serve.

We’ll look at services for older adults who come to the library for interaction, inspiration, and information as well as off-site services for persons having difficulty accessing our facilities. These are some of the topics that we plan to address in the next few months:

  • Lifelong learning programs
  • Approaches to working with persons who have Alzheimer’s disease
  • Working effectively with Activity Directors
  • Avoiding paternalism: showing elders respect through our intentions, our language, and our actions
  • Serving elders who are non-English speakers
  • Assistive technology – selecting, demonstrating, loaning…
  • Innovative programming ideas
  • Books-by-Mail, home delivery, and deposit collections
  • Technology training with older adults
  • Intergenerational programs
  • Marketing and communication strategies
  • Developing partnerships and coalitions in the community

What issues would you like to read more about? What would you like to write about in the column? Where are the fantastic services for elders? What could OLOS include on the web site that would make your job easier? What new resources have you found? What conferences in related fields should we know about? Send us your answers and questions and we’ll use them to shape this column and the web site. Please contact me at kmayo@leegov.com.

Who are the older adults in our communities?
In spite of the 55+ discounts and age requirement for AARP (50), I’ve chosen the more traditional yardstick of 65+ to define this age group. We will clarify when articles in this column refer to services for persons who are younger than 65.

How do we refer to persons who are over 65?
Like most of you, I use different descriptors depending on the situation and try to use terminology that shows respect. Senior, older adult, and elder were the most common terms preferred in a recent discussion on SeriorServ. Here are some other thoughts:

  • As a rule of thumb, avoid placing “the” in front of any term to create an adjectival noun. “The” elders doesn’t sound any better than “the” Jews, “the” blacks, or “the” women.
  • The group had specific objection to the word elderly, especially when used as “the” elderly.
  • Ask your audience for their opinions. They are the resident experts.

Jane Huson (Washington-Centerville (OH) Public Library) put it well in her comments. “As I approach 55 myself, I have to agree that referring to me as elder or senior would not attract me. As I look at the 60 and 70-year old people coming through our doors, those terms don’t really describe them, either. They are simply adults, older adults if you must, who need us to provide services relevant to their interests. Many of them are auditing courses at local universities, traveling extensively, playing more sports, and helping to raise their children’s families. We have to convince them that the library is still a meaningful part of their lives.”

In most cases, there is no need to label any group. For example, the community where I live has a large population over 65 (25%) that grows even larger in the winter months. The library offers many programs that appeal to persons in this age group, but does not promote them as programs for older adults. It’s just not necessary.

SeniorServ discussion list
SeniorServ@ala.org is a discussion list for persons serving older adults. Sign up today to join in on discussions, ask for advice, or just share concerns and successes. The first step is to visit http://lists.ala.org.

We are looking at producing a new column every six weeks. The next one will cover information from the ALA Midwinter meeting as well as recent discussions on deposit collections for older adult facilities and daycare centers.

--Kathy Mayo has been a librarian for over thirty years – mostly involved with library outreach and services for elders and persons with disabilities.  One of her first positions was at a large mental health treatment facility where she started using BiFolkal kits with older residents. She has worked as a consultant at the State Library of Florida and most recently as Manager of Community Access Services for the Lee County Library System in Fort Myers, Florida. In Lee County, she directs Assistive Technology, Bookmobile, Books-by-Mail, Literacy, Multicultural, Senior Outreach, and Talking Book programs. Kathy has been active in ALA since the mid-70’s and is a frequent presenter at national and state conferences.


New Things to Come for Bookmobilers!

By Jan Meadows, Bookmobile Supervisor, Pikes Peak Library District.

Here it is the end of January already! One month of the New Year already gone! We had better all fasten our seat belts because 2004 promises to be an even faster ride than 2003. Bookmobile and Outreach Services folks, this is your year.

First, it is the inaugural year for the Association of Bookmobile and Outreach Services (ABOS). The Association needs lots of support to get up and running and it will need everyone to contribute to the effort. It is my hope that all will view the Association as a living, changing and hopefully growing entity. The steering committee did not carve it out of a slab of marble. It can be all that we want it to be. I have not seen a mission statement but I would like it to include something to the effect that ABOS is dedicated to equitable service for everyone at libraries, committed to promoting equitable service delivery and offering strong support to Bookmobile/Outreach staff. I hope ABOS will be a place where everyone can share their ideas, listen to other people’s ideas and come to a consensus that everyone will uphold. As in any group, no one will always have everything the way they want it, but if we respect each other and work within the system instead of abandoning it when things don’t go our way, we can build an Association that is held in high esteem in the Library World and will be a strong voice for Bookmobile and Outreach Services.

The Public Library Association National Conference (February 25 – 28) is right around the corner. I will not be able to attend (so many conferences, so little money!) but if you go and learn something that would be of interest to bookmobile/outreach staff I would be happy to have you send the info to me and I will include it in this column. Or if you would like to take over this column for a month to report on all the great info you picked up at PLA I would gladly let you do that! We need to share the news!

From Outreach to Equity: Something for Everyone @ Your Library
Innovative Models of Policy & Practice,an ALA publication, will be launched at the ALA Annual Conference. This book presents successful models of library practices and policies that support equitable service delivery in libraries. It is organized by types of service: Services Outside Library Walls, Outreach Inside the Walls, Technology, Technical Services, Staff Development and Advocacy. ALA President Carla Hayden has called upon the profession to embrace equity of access. This puts your outreach service in the limelight. Check out this book and share it with your administration. Bookmobiles and Outreach Services are prime “vehicles” for your library to provide equitable service delivery. It’s your time to shine!

It is also your time to share. Go to www.ala.org/olos and click on “What’s Happening in Outreach @ Your Library”. Submit what you are doing at your library.There were lots of articles submitted for the book that, due to size limitations, were not used, so I know there are many great things going on out there in library land. This web site is the perfect place for you to tell about your service and to get new ideas from other people.

At the ALA Annual Conference in Orlando, June 24 – 30, there will be a Bookmobile session, “Automating Your Bookmobile – Satellites and Beyond”. Tom Walker, Systems Manager for the Charleston County Public Library (SC) will take you down the techie highway to bookmobile automation. Come and bring your IT people with you, there will be time for questions. Mark your calendar now for Sunday, June 27, 10:30 a.m. to noon!

This is the third year in a row that Bookmobiles have had a session at ALA. Do you have an idea for a program for the 2005 ALA conference? Send it to me at jmeadows@ppld.org. We want these sessions to be relevant to your interests and needs.

The first joint conference of The Association of Bookmobile and Outreach Service (ABOS) and The Association of Rural and Small Libraries (ARSL) will be October 13 – 16 in Columbus, OH. If you have never been to a National Bookmobile and Outreach conference before, you don’t know what you are missing. This is the formative year for ABOS so this is the conference you must attend!

OLOS would also like to start a calendar of Bookmobile conferences on the OLOS web site. Ohio is having one May 26. I know Indiana has one and have heard of others through the years. How great to have one place where we can look up where all those bookmobile folks will be getting together. Send your info to Beatrice Calvin, Communications Specialist, ALA Office for Literacy and Outreach Services at bcalvin@ala.org.

Is there any doubt that 2004 will be an active, terrific year for bookmobile and outreach services staff? I think not! So here’s wishing you all a Happy, Creative, Successful Year!!

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