LIBRARY GRAD STUDENTS ANSWER THE CALL
Welcome to Library Lions interviews Raising a Roar for libraries and the outstanding librarians across the U.S. This week’s Special Edition highlights the Library Program serving seniors at The Ballard Landmark. I learned about the volunteers who started this innovative program when I met Greg Bem last summer at the ALA conference.
Four students responded to the request and founded the current library program: Greb Bem, Erin Boyington, Emily Small, and Gina Kessler.
The Skinny: What inspired you to create the Ballard Landmark Senior Center program?
How the program “works” depends on which volunteer is present at the library and what the volunteer is comfortable with. Typically the program begins each week with the volunteer doing shelf-reading and basic organization of materials. There is a returns container that usually has a plethora of books for reshelving, and books have typically found strange places on the bookshelves. Magazines are weeded each week as well. The library is small, consisting of just a few hundred books, but it is a beloved resource for a few dedicated users.
After the initial review of the collection has been conducted, the volunteer then seeks out residents that need help. Whether help consists of learning an iPad application, recovering lost computer passwords, finding something new to read, or getting a book review, the volunteers at the library are happy to help. In addition to working within the library, the volunteers also help residents at the two computer workstations existing around the corner, where residents are often conducting research or checking e-mail.
The volunteers also help with computer set up and other basic technology needs of the residents. In addition, we have established relationships with the Seattle Public Library Mobile Services and the Washington Talking Book and Braille Library to make sure we can get books for seniors who are no longer able to get to the public library or who need large print or audiobooks (which does make up a small part of the Landmark’s collection). Last summer, we also successfully requested an acquisitions fund and were able to purchase additional books for the Landmark at the Friends of the Seattle Public Library book sale.
Our services provide small but important benefits for these seniors, from promoting reading at every age to enabling them to keep up with new technologies. Sometimes, they are just glad to have someone new to chat with. This spring, at the suggestion of one of the staff, we hope to organize a lesson on video chat through Gmail, Facetime, and Skype so that residents can communicate interactively with their families who live far away.
“Great job! Many thanks!” – Betty, a resident
Residents are regularly thrilled to visit the volunteers each week and know that the library is actively being maintained and facilitated by students. It’s not uncommon for a volunteer to develop a friendship with returning residents each week. The residents regularly stop by for assistance and, in some cases, visit with the library volunteers to simply exchange stories and share information with one another. They have been especially grateful for readers advisory and computer and e-reader help we provide.
Bob and Cathy stopping by for books
When we attended the Landmark’s annual herring festival (Ballard has historically been populated by many Nordic immigrants) as a form of outreach, nearly everyone we spoke with was familiar with our work and had stories of how we had helped their friends, if not them directly. We have also implemented a suggestion box, which residents use to thank us for our work, make suggestions about the layout, and request that we add certain books to the collection.
Coming to the Landmark, you never know whom you’re going to meet! In one day, I might get a dance lesson (the resident came to us with a reference question about how to get on Ellen on TV with his dancing skills), find a new thriller for the resident who has a stuffed cat and an empty mini bottle of Wild Turkey attached to her walker, and discuss the latest celebrity drama with the residents who have come to read the latest issue of People.
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Note to Librarians: If you’re a Youth Librarian working in a school or public library we’d love to hear about you and your library. Email Janet on the Contact page on this website for an interview.