The American Library Association Annual Conference

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The American Library Association

I was invited to attend a pre-conference a few weeks ago during the American Library Association Annual Conference in Chicago. It was sponsored by the Reference and User Services Association’s (RUSA) Committee on Library Services to an Aging Population and they wanted, not me in particular, but someone from ARSL to attend.

It was called “A Dialogue with the Aging Network and the Library Community: The New ALA Guidelines on Library and Information Services to Older Adults.” The six-hour meeting turned out to be time well spent.

The day began with the presentation of the new guidelines that were first developed in the 1970s. I think everyone has figured out that baby boomers are retiring and, with the lengthening life span, creating several generations of older adults that are very diverse. The updated guidelines recognize this diversity and provide a blueprint for libraries to plan services that meet the needs of all older adults. For a copy of the guidelines, check out the link below.

Guidelines for Library and Information Services to Older Adults

The first speaker was Lynn Kellogg, President of the National Association of Area Agencies on Aging. I have partnered with the local Area Agency on Aging in two of the libraries I’ve worked in, but I had no idea of their scope of service or how different each one can be. Lynn explained that the Older Americans Act of 1965 created a national structure for the planning and development of a system of services to keep older Americans independent in their own homes as long as possible. The entire county and all its territories were divided into planning service areas with Area Agencies on Aging “designated” within each service area to develop services.

The term “designated” is important because it allows communities to do things differently. AAAs are not federal or state government. They can be aligned with a county or city or they can be an independent organization. They don’t even have to call themselves the Area Agency on Aging. Native American Tribes are also mentioned in the Act.

Here’s the breakdown of the network:

  • 1 U.S. Administration on Aging
  • 56 State Units on Aging
  • 655 Area Agencies on Aging
  • 240 Tribes
  • 29,000 Local Community Providers
  • 500,000 volunteers

Most AAAs don’t provide direct services, but instead provide funds for local providers. Although each agency is different, they do share some core functions: meal service, home-based support, transportation, caregiver support and legal services.

So what does this have to do with libraries, you’re asking yourself? If your library is looking for ways to serve older adults, your local Area Agency on Aging or their service providers could be great partners.

Elaine Brovont, a past chair of the National Association of Nutrition and Aging Services and manager of a senior nutrition program gave us some partnership ideas.

  • Ask Meals on Wheels program to distribute publicity for library programs
  • Ask for transportation for older adults to library events
  • Build a multi-care facility – half library, half nutrition center
  • Partner with programs – piggy back on their programs
  • Ask them to do surveys of their users for you
  • Ask if they cater for a brown bag lunch program at the library or their facility

If you have trouble making that connection (let’s face it, some people just see it as more work), give them something for free. Have your children’s program make something (like Valentine’s Day cards) and give them to the Center to distribute or better yet, ask if the kids can come delivery the cards.

One other tip…Lynn talked about a website called that helps find programs in your community that provide services to older adults.

In the next blog I’ll recount what Barbara Mates had to say. Mates is author of 5-Star programming and Services for Your 55+ Library Customers and Adaptive Technology for the Internet.

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