Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Serving the elderly

 Here's a thought-provoker:  Does an equitable portion of your budget, time and effort go to meet the needs of old people in your congregation?

Take a look at this recent column from American Libraries by Jennifer Burek Pierce entitled "An Old Friend in the Library:"
Doris’s library habits wouldn’t, at first glance, seem significant to anyone. It wasn’t until I’d been in the building with her over the course of a few weeks, attempting to find a balance between watching to make sure she didn’t fall and leaving her to her own devices, that I started to recognize the patterns.
On almost every visit, she looked for books in the exact same part of the large-print section. Eventually I realized this shelf wasn’t populated with her favorite authors; rather, that particular row, closest to both an entrance and a self-check station, didn’t require her to walk the full length of the building. Also, someone regularly left one of those round scooting stools in that aisle, undoubtedly to aid young, able-bodied shelvers. Doris could never have used the stool for its intended purpose—to stand on it—but the stool did provide her with a place to sit while she browsed. She is, admittedly, tiny, but you could be a few inches taller and still be incapable of reaching, or even really seeing, a third of the books on these shelves. Plus, I’ve scanned the new, bookstore-emulating part of the library that is furnished with real chairs, easy-to-reach shelves, and cover-forward shelving. Large-print titles aren’t to be found there.

Watching the staff interact with her was frustrating. I know they were trying to treat her as the capable, independent woman she would very much like to be—and how she tries to present herself. Once...she had asked for help locating [a] DVD ... and a staff member had given her a slip of paper on which three call letters were written in the penmanship equivalent of 10-point type. The item Doris sought was on a bottom shelf at the far side of the room.
Think of all the things we do to make...spaces usable for kids: low shelves; bold, attractive signage. Think of all the training and professional rhetoric about establishing ways to interact with teens that recognize their need for independence versus the inherent limitations of their age. Why don’t we strive to serve the elderly in the same ways?
(Read the full article here.)

Think about it - are you stocking large print editions? (and topics relevant to aging users?)  Are your spine labels easily legible?  Are those large print items easy to find - and reach?Are your library workers ready to go the extra mile?
What does your church library do to serve the elderly user?

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