Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Book Discussions 2.0

One of my favorite jobs as a Librarian is to lead a book discussion group at my branch. The books are usually fiction or autobiography. The Public Library Association (PLA) blog recently announced that The Women’s National Book Association (WNBA) is launching "National Reading Group Month" (NRGM) in October 2007. The PLA post quoted Laurie Beckelman, the president of the Women’s National Book Association as stating that "Reading groups inspire, transform and educate. They foster community and instill an appreciation for the written word.” The Women's National Book Association encourages people to start book discussion groups or to join them.

Our branch orders books for five different book discussion groups. These are very popular groups. However, I wonder about how many people are unable to participate in these groups because they have physical mobility problems, or because they do not have transportation to attend meetings. Perhaps this is an area where library 2.0 and web 2.0 could help. Having an online discussion area for book discussion or a book discussion blog with commenting enabled is a start in that direction. People could participate from home, even though they cannot come to the library. This could provide them with an opportunity for social interaction.

However, perhaps in the future we can go one step further. On the Bigwig Social Software Showcase, Tom Peters provides an audio presentation about his upcoming ALA presentation about web conferencing software. In this audio, he mentions that web conferencing software could be used in libraries to allow people to participate in book discussions from home. This sounds like a great new way to provide outreach to the homebound.

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Thursday, June 14, 2007

The Benefits of Socialization for Adult Day Care Participants

Cohen-Mansfield and Wirtz (2007) looked at factors which may contribute to adult day care participants entering a nursing home. In the abstract of this paper, Cohen-Mansfield and Wirtz reported that a low frequency of socializing with relatives and friends was a significant predictor of future institutionalization. They concluded that “The findings highlight the importance of socialization and suggest that a focus on successful and reinforcing socialization should be an important component of adult day care programming. The results also suggest that addressing patient mental health variables may be important in delaying institutionalization in this population.”

What does this mean for libraries? I think that librarians should create outreach programs to adult day cares, senior centers, and assisted living facilities. Book discussions at these locations can promote social interaction and lead to friendships. In addition, programs that encourage memory and social interaction should be especially useful. Rosemary Honnold and Saralyn Mesaros (2004) book, Serving Seniors, has an entire chapter about remembering programs - from do-it-yourself programs to program kits that one can buy from BiFolkal Productions or Eldersong Publications (p. 155). The BiFolkal remembering kits are very popular in my area.

Another way for librarians to promote socializing among older adults is to organize local volunteers to deliver books to the homebound. By having volunteers deliver books to homebound older adults, these volunteers can provide cheerful conversation and interaction for very isolated individuals. I believe that this could make a big difference in the quality of life of homebound individuals.

Cohen-Mansfield, Jiska; Wirtz, Philip W. (2007, June). Characteristics of adult day care participants who enter a nursing home. Psychology and Aging, 22(2), 354-360.

Honnold, R & Mesaros, S. (2004). Serving Seniors: A how-to-do-it manual for librarians. NY: Neal-Schuman Publishers, Inc.

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Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Digital Book 2007 Conference

Library Journal reported that The International Digital Publishing forum held the Digital Book 2007 conference in May (Rogers & Datema, 2007). Problems discussed at the conference included the lack of standards for ebook format and the different ebook readers. So far ebooks and ebook readers have not become popular. The Library Journal article discussed how digital textbooks would be a great improvement for students since they are searchable and cheaper than print books. However, I was surprised that the article did not mention how useful these devices could be for older adults and for people who have vision problems. Since ebook readers could display text in large print sizes, this could greatly increase the number of books available in large print. Older adults, who need large print, would not be limited to only print books that have a large print edition. I think that this technology could catch on with older adults, especially when the prices for ebook readers come down.

For older adults that have a computer, there may be a new way to get digital books - through a plan by Google to allow a weekly rental for digital books or by buying the digital book through Google. The article did not give any proposed prices for book rental. The reading experience may not be very attractive to older adults though - due to the glare of the computer screen and the fact that this method of reading is not very mobile or convenient. The article also mentioned that the quality of scanning by Google was not consistently good.

Peter Brantley of the Digital Library Federation is quoted as proposing that libraries provide poor people with free or low cost access to nonfiction books - but not fiction books (p. 30). I disagree with this stance entirely. I believe that providing fiction is an important part of a public library's mission. Early in the 1900's, Librarians debated about whether or not to provide fiction books to patrons. I think that this debate should be over. We are not in the business of telling our patrons what they should read. Instead, we should be providing them with the books that they request.

Rogers, M. & Datema, J. (2007, June) IDPF hosts digital book 2007. Library Journal, 132(10), p.27-30.

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Friday, June 08, 2007

Educational Needs of Older Adults

The Kept-up Academic Librarian wrote a post about the new Metlife Foundation grant for a study called “Reinvesting in the Third Age”. The Center for Lifelong Learning of the American Council on Education will be conducting this $400,000 study, which aims to “map the landscape of lifelong learning needs and expectations for older adults, raise awareness in the higher education community, promote greater access and opportunity for older learners, and share best practices and policies among colleges and universities”. Older adults are expected to go back to colleges to learn for their careers and for personal development.

Librarians will need to be ready to help older adults with their classes and to provide additional lifelong learning opportunities. The Winter Park Public Library has a Lifelong Learning Institute that provides extensive programming. This institute has programs in five different categories: Arts & Entertainment, Health & Wellness, History & Current Events, How To, and Vital Living. The Institute does charge for the programs, but there are low cost yearly memberships. By charging for classes, they can offer a wide variety of classes. However, many people will not be able to afford these classes - especially if they are on a fixed income.

Does your library provide lifelong learning classes? Do they charge for them? Do you think that it is a good idea to charge for library classes?

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Monday, June 04, 2007

An Inspirational Story

Recently, I read a very moving post called "Picking Stone" by the Feel-good Librarian about teaching older adults to use computers and the Internet. The Feel-good Librarian wrote eloquently about all the obstacles that older adults face when they want to start learning about computers. This post really showed how we as Librarians can have a positive effect on people's lives. I really agree with this blogger, that teaching older adults these skills can be extremely rewarding. The key is to be encouraging and patient - giving people time to practice their skills and to cement their knowledge. As they become more proficient on the computers, many older adults get very enthusiastic about the Internet and they appreciate our help.

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Saturday, June 02, 2007

Reader's Advisory for Older Adults

It is hard for librarians to find the time to keep up with all the library journals. I will be trying to find articles in these journals that relate to older adult services and report on them here. I found a great article from the Reference & User Services Quarterly by Alicia Ahlvers (2006). This article is literally packed with great information. Ahlvers starts by describing the characteristics of different segments of the older adult population. She talks about the G.I. generation (aged 85 and above), the Silent Generation (aged 65-84), and the Baby Boomers (aged 44-64).

She described the G.I. generation as gallant, hard working, and civic minded. She stated that they "are particularly fond of sentimental stories and novels with characters from their generation" (p. 306). She characterized the Silent Generation as reserved, hard working, and often stoic. According to Ahlvers, people in the Silent Generation tend to be receptive to books recommended by librarians. Ahlvers predicts that the Boomer generation will be assertive and will be more willing to use technology, such as an online library catalog.

Ahlvers used data from her library's homebound program to provide a list of the most popular materials ordered by these different generations. This is very useful, as is her discussion of how to conduct readers' advisory interviews for older adults.

I really liked Ahlver's recommendation that libraries be able to print the check out receipt in large print, so that older adults can read the due dates for their materials. That had not occurred to me before, and it makes a lot of sense.

Ahlvers, Alicia. (2006). Older adults and readers' advisory. In Reference & User Services Quarterly, 45(4), p305(8). Retrieved June 02, 2007, from InfoTrac OneFile via Thomson Gale. (Your library may subscribe to this online database).

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