Reference Services for Older Adults

It was quite serendipitous when I looked at the list of topics for a report I had to write for my reference services class because it intersected with an activity that I did in my management course just a couple weeks prior.  I decided to do my report on “Reference Services to the ‘Aging Demographic’” which my group activity in Management class happened to have involved.

In management, we were given scenarios and asked to think as managers and come up with possible solutions to the various personnel problems. My group was given the situation where a new reference librarian fresh from her MLIS was feeling bored in her role because she only got requests for new recipes from older users who lived in the nearby retirement home. Our solution was to have her create a roving reference program to do regular visits to the retirement home and possibly other similar institutions where there are many people who are physically unable to go to the library. This way the librarian can further her professional development by being able to say she designed and executed a brand new program while also expanding services to an important user base for that particular library.

My research into the topic of serving older adults in libraries further confirmed to me that this was a valid idea. Older adults are defined by the ALA as being 55 years of age and older and this age demographic is estimated to double by the year 2030 the Baby Boomers entering this phase of life. There has been much recent LIS literature developed to address this demographic shift so as to develop new or expand programming geared towards the unique needs of older adults. What I found very surprising was that not only was it suggested that reference services and book mobiles be brought to retirement and nursing homes, there was also the idea of bringing laptops and mobile wireless internet as well to teach older adults how to use computers and navigate the internet.

It is great to see that librarians are thinking strategically about the ‘aging demographic’ so that they may prepare services for the change instead of reacting to it.

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