For many people, reading is one of life’s greatest pleasures, and possessing a library card is like holding a perpetual winning lottery ticket! Whether you favor poetry, other-worldly science fiction, heart-pounding mysteries, non-fiction books on everything from aardvarks to Zoroastrianism, sweeping histories of countries and epochs, or biographies of the famous and infamous, reading is a portal to new experiences, insights, and avocations. Our nation has made it a priority to make reading accessible to all its citizens with the establishment of free public libraries, a tradition dating back to 1833!
Sadly, library patronage often diminishes with age, for many reasons:
*Mobility: Seniors may be dependent on others for transportation, or they may have physical challenges that make trips to the library seem like an undertaking.
*Vision: Seniors often experience changes in vision, which may discourage their active reading habits.
*Technology: Seniors grew up in a time of card catalogs (which I still miss!) Looking for what they want by searching through a computer database may be unfamiliar terrain.
*Focus: Many libraries focus on book collections, events, and unique spaces for children and teens. There are also significant resources devoted to people seeking employment. Some seniors may come away from a library with the impression that senior issues are not the focus of library planners.
The GOOD NEWS is that libraries DO have many services, accommodations, and collections suited to the interests of seniors! From one bibliophile to another, let me share some of these with you!
First, there is the marvelous fact that everything in a library is free to the user. A senior with a limited budget can read his favorite magazines, peruse the newspaper, borrow current movies or enjoy the old classics, read great literature and the latest bestsellers, and listen to his favorite music – FREE!
In addition, all public libraries are ADA accessible. You can expect access ramps, handicapped parking spaces, elevators, drive up book drops, and other amenities designed to make the library easily navigable to all patrons.
Do you need the library’s materials to come to you? Ask your local library about its bookmobile program! Bookmobiles visit underserved areas, as well as places such as senior centers and nursing homes.
Persons with vision problems will find that the library has provided well for them. Not only are many resources available in large print, but the collections include Braille materials and Talking Books (also known as Books on Tape, Audio Books, and Playaways). Playaways are ingenious little devices that have a book preloaded into an mp3 player. All a listener has to do is plug in the headphones and push the play button. And unlike many complicated devices nowadays, the Playaway features just three buttons: Play, Forward, and Rewind.
All public libraries offer resources that go beyond books. There are government forms, photocopiers and fax machines (these involve a fee), and banks of computers available for use. Best of all, there are research librarians and information specialists who ENJOY the challenge of helping you find just what you are looking for, or showing you how to operate the library catalog database or log onto a computer. Making friends with your local research librarian is a very smart move!
Libraries offer something else very important to seniors . . . community. Sometimes this happens informally, as you sit in a reading room with others and enjoy reading and quiet conversation. Sometimes new friendships happen intentionally, through library sponsored special programs, book clubs, or Friends of the Library events.
Finally, most local libraries have made an effort to preserve and catalog local history. There are special collections, artifacts, and records that enable seniors to see the changing landscape of their towns over their lifetimes.
Your Cascade Companion Care caregiver can be a good source of connection to library services. They are able to provide transportation to the library and its special programs, or they can take your wish list to the library and bring you home a bundle of new things to enjoy!