librarian reading book with older man during a community outreach programSeniors may experience barriers to using a library such as transportation or mobility, or in accessing materials due to visual or auditory challenges.

To meet these changing needs, Georgia’s public libraries are meeting senior citizens where they are with programming, book-by-mail services, accessible technology and more.

40 senior citizens from Skylark Adult Care in Johns Creek recently visited China one morning, thanks to two outreach librarians from Forsyth County Public Library.

“It is core to Forsyth Library’s mission to reach underserved populations such as these great folks at Skylark,” said Sarah Reynolds. “Most would be physically unable to come to our library, but through outreach we can bring the library’s services to them.”

Reynolds and fellow librarian Lorraine Lane took turns reading short stories about China; describing and passing around artifacts like a silk scarf, parasol, painted bottle, kite and chopsticks; and then engaging attendees to read aloud facts.

As the kite was passed around, one woman’s eyes lit up as she recalled living in China decades ago.
Another attendee, Roddy, 84, spent time looking through one of the books about the Great Wall of China with Lane.

Chinese artifacts displayed during community outreach at a senior center

“I love to travel and spent two years living in Mongolia and Korea when I was in the service,” he said. “I really enjoy the library’s presentations; they help me see and remember places I have been.”

Forsyth County Public Library aims to serve their entire community by identifying barriers to using their services and providing those services to traditionally underserved populations. In addition to Tales & Travels with Seniors, they also bring a pop-up library to two food pantry sites, offer programming for adults with disabilities; bring storytimes to schools, preschools, and aftercare programs throughout the county; and facilitate a books-by-mail program for patrons who have difficulty leaving their homes. Reynolds and Lane offer an average of three outreach programs per week.

Other places like Pembroke Public Library in Bryan County, part of Statesboro Regional Public Libraries, also have increased their focus on programming for seniors unable to travel to libraries because of transportation or mobility barriers. The library visits senior centers to do crafts, bingo, and deliver books, and their services also provide an opportunity for people to socialize.

Accessible services are another way to meet the needs of aging adults. Georgia Libraries for Accessible Statewide Services provides materials in large-print, braille and audio to help those with vision or hearing impairments, and GLASS also assists those physically impaired in a way that prevents that person from holding a book and turning the pages.

“People who are print-disabled often are faced with issues related to mobility and finding transportation,” said Pat Herndon, assistant state librarian and director of GLASS. “All GLASS materials are delivered by mail, free-of-charge to the patron, or delivered electronically to mobile digital devices such as a phone or tablet.”

Additionally, patrons with disabilities that prevent them from physically visiting a library to be able to apply for a library card and can receive materials by mail from many libraries that are part of the PINES system. Having a PINES library card allows access to online resources including downloadable books.

“Vision or hearing impairment, mobility and transportation all pose barriers to traditional walk-in library service,” said Herndon. “Add lack of computer skills or internet access and the problem compounds. Georgia’s public libraries offer a variety of ways to create equity of access for everyone, no matter their circumstances.” n