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Public Libraries and Information Services Volume 22 Issue 3 September 2009, originally presented at Next chapters: public libraries in Australia and New Zealand for older generations, State Library of New South Wales 2009 This paper will look at the range of readers advisory services being provided for leading edge Baby boomers (over 55 years of age), the well aged and the frail aged. What should we be planning for? Why should we care about Readers advisory services for older adults? In Australia and New Zealand we have an ageing population. There are quite a few countries in the same situation and we can learn from their experiences as well as having them learn from ours. Readers’ advisory services for older adults can help contribute to people continuing to lead fulfilling and rewarding lives. We should not take the same approach as Chicken Little panicking and misreading the signs. The three little pigs form a better basis for planning as they learn from each other’s experiences and succeed when they work together. Another reason we should care is that we are faced with elderly relatives and friends as well as our own ageing. These services are for people who already use our libraries as well as for people who have not yet discovered them. These readers’ advisory services are for people we know and they may even be for us. It makes good sense from a service perspective to plan readers’ advisory services for older adults as it can provide a better outcome for the future of individuals as well as build community, and social inclusion. Libraries remain one of the few public spaces with intergenerational activity and interaction. The intergeneration space is important. While this conference is focusing on ageing because Australia, and quite a few other countries have a rapidly aging population, it is worth remembering this is not a totally global trend, for example 50% of the South African population is under 20. Current readers’ advisory services for older adults As I could not find existing statistical information about readers advisory services for older adults, I collected my own information. I did a brief survey to find out the state of readers advisory services for older adults. I distributed this survey via Australian, New Zealand, North American, and international e-mail lists. One hundred and seventeen library services responded. The location of respondents were predominantly from North America and Australia, however there were also responses received from New Zealand and the United Kingdom. The aim of the survey was not to provide exhaustive data, but rather to locate indicative data. I wanted to find out how people had been thinking about this core service and how they had been planning for it in their library service. I also wanted to find out if people had not really been thinking about how to provide library services to this group of people. E-mails I received from people who had filled in the survey provided additional indicative data. They also gave me a large number of people who will be receiving summaries of the data I have collected because they would like to see what are the 1
broad trends in service delivery and planning for service delivery in this area. I was not alone in noticing that this area had been under explored for planning for readers’ advisory services. The following comments from the survey demonstrate some of the thinking from people delivering services in public libraries: We offer extensive reader advisory services to all individuals who come into the library, irrespective of age. Many who make use of this easily available service are older customers, which is offered to customers virtually all hours the library is open. At present we do not have specific plans to change this service, although we will shortly be further promotion of the home delivery service. This comment highlights a certainty and confidence about the services already being provided. We will be updating our library system later this year and are planning a number of online R A initiatives including author lists, suggested reads and book groups. We also intend producing more book marks and reading guides. Many of these will be of interest to older age groups but we have no plans to target specific age groups. We combine all groups and pay no attention to the age of our RA customers. We are concerned with individuals. In one way these next two comments are great as they describe readers’ advisory services as being inclusive, but it also does not take into account much diversity. The diversity may not be clustering by age, but by reading interests, but this still needs to account for a diversity of formats. For example current science fiction readers do not have many possibilities for continuing reading in this area of interest once they become large print readers, unless they read e-books. They have only slightly better prospects if they listen to talking books (in any format). Graphic novels have not made it into large print either. There are very limited options in large print or spoken word for people who read languages other than English. There are issues of equity based on reading preferences which need to be addressed. As far as I know, there is nothing being done to attract anyone of this age, except my group, which was not by conscious design. RA is so backward here...... This comment presents a different perspective. For the purposes of the survey I divided older adults into three groups. 55 – 65 year olds which is broadly leading edge baby boomers, fit over 65 year olds and frail over 65 year olds. I divided the older readers into fit and frail as there are some service delivery differences depending on how agile and robust the reader is, while the requirements of finding interesting reading and possibly engaging with other readers remain much the same regardless of age. The first group, the 55 – 65 year olds is the most contentious, not least because of the eleven year clustering. This age group begs the question at what age does one become an older adult. I will leave the detail of this to others as it is not actually important to the ideas I am discussing. I think that sometimes an older adult is any age older than the people involved in the discussion as we are never the older adults being talked about. 2
In looking at the survey results I realised that I probably could have had any combination of age categories mentioned and not received significantly different results. From a review of literature as well as observation it would seem that much readers’ advisory work (other than some targeting children and young adults) does not target specific age groups or agilities. The results of my survey were no different and I think this highlighted a broader issue. People may not be targeting specific age groups in the readers advisory work which is being done (other than the earlier mentioned children’s and young adult), but neither are they being strategic about intergenerational readers advisory opportunities. I will return later to the idea of intergenerational opportunities for readers’ advisory services for older adults. Note in this paper ‘book’ refers to books (printed, online, e-books, audio and any other format) although there would also be relevance to dvds and online videos (if readers advisory were stretched a little). ‘Reading’ refers to reading, and listening (although watching could also be included if dvds and online videos are included). For the 55 – 65 age group 21% of libraries provide age specific reading groups. This drops slightly to 19% of libraries targeting fit over 65 year olds for the same kind of activity, see tables one and two. The decline in numbers may hint at the decline in mobility for some of the readers. Some of the libraries in their comments clarified their answers by saying that although fit older adults were their main reading group participants they had not specifically targeted these people, that it was an accidental focus rather than a deliberate focus. It is also possible that this participation could be based on the times of the reading group discussions favouring age groups who are not in full time employment or those who work more flexible hours. Reading groups have been a growth area for the last few years. Over 75% of the surveyed libraries run reading groups for their community. The strength and numbers of reading groups is likely to increase as people continue to seek ways to engage with others. table 1: Readers advisory services for 55 – 65 year olds
There are no online reading groups targeting people aged 55 years and older yet between 5% and 14% of libraries surveyed provide online reading groups. Older readers are an area of future online expansion as the number of aged people with high 3
level computer skills will continue to increase. There are also many exciting ways to consider providing online reading groups. 62% of libraries have online reading lists, and 65% had reading lists available in libraries. From comments received only a small number of libraries made printed reading lists available in larger print. This is an area where online reading suggestions can be an advantage to readers as they can alter the font to match their reading requirements, or use a screen reader (which will read the information to them) if they like. Online lists are also very useful for placing reservations, while the printed versions are handy for browsing from the shelves. Online lists, if optimised for portable device delivery, would also be useful for browsing shelves for selection. table 2: Readers advisory services for fit over 65 year olds
Many of the libraries with reading group kits did not have large print or spoken word versions of the titles discussed. Obviously the availability of these titles varies so that a full range of formats is not always going to be available but it did highlight some indirect exclusion for older readers with failing eyesight. This is actually an area where e-books could streamline the requirement for larger print for some older adults. On an e-book reader the font can be whatever size you choose, and you may even have the option of having the book read to you instead of having the reading the printing.
table 3: Readers advisory services for frail over 65 year olds
From table 3 the frail over 65 year olds have even less online services targeting them than the previously discussed groups. This is the group where there is the greatest potential for change as more and more people in this age group will have sophisticated computer skills. Increased frailty can cause issues around mouse use, but anti shake software is now available to help with this. Selection options for home library service clients As you can see from table 4 most libraries are asking their home library service clients what they are reading by genre and author. Some libraries use detailed readers advisory interviews to determine reading preferences of people who are homebound, but others worth their way through checklists. The detailed interviews are likely to discover the additional information required by library staff to provide a more effective reading match for their homebound clients, but there needs to be a consistent way of recording this for the selectors. table 4: Readers advisory services for people who are homebound
Nancy Pearl’s doorways and home library service As well as the survey being distributed I asked library staff that provide services to homebound clients to send me a sample of the blank profile forms which they use to select material for their readers. From the sample of blank readers’ profiles which I received, it would seem that there are gaps in how the information is being recorded about reading preferences, likes and dislikes. There may be a very comprehensive reference interview taking place, but few of the forms allow space for detailed information to be recorded. Some of the readers’ profiles forms were targeting the readers and others were staff oriented. Few were in a font size large enough for a reader who could read large print. Most included some format options (large print, talking books, books) others even specified dvds, cds, magazines, videos, cassettes, audio read navigators. Only one included the option of languages other than English as a prompt. The section options for non-fiction varied from one option, to several, and the degree of detail recorded for the fiction selections were similarly varied. We do a full RA interview with the prospective homebound patron. They can provide titles of books they've liked, genres, authors, even things they dislike! :-) A detailed readers advisory interview provides a good solution for a homebound reader, but a few more prompts for the readers advisory interview could help provide a better and more consistent solution for the person selecting the reading materials. It was interesting to note that no library mentioned having an online form for people to fill in their own preferences. The number of older people with online access and skills will increase over time and this change will need to be considered. I would like to suggest a slightly more systematic way of approaching obtaining information about reading preferences. It could be helpful for library staff providing library services to clients who are home bound to consider recording information about appeal characteristics as well as recording the information about author and genre preferences. Imagine what it would be like if someone was selecting your reading based on the authors and genres you like and only on these factors. Also imagine the consequences of them getting it wrong, and you running out of reading too soon with no way of getting more titles to read until the next delivery at least a week or more into the future. Knowing that a person reads a particular author or genre does not give you the information about why they enjoy reading them. The why is important as the why opens up possibilities for other reading referrals, and for increasing the satisfaction of the reader with your selection for them. For example someone may like to read crime writing and they read it because they enjoy the detectives and their personalities (or the criminals and their personalities), or they read for how the language is used, or the descriptions of the locations of the crimes, or the actual story of the process of trying to solve the crime. They also might like reading about murders which are not described in graphic detail, or only ones with every last blood splatter carefully described. Some of this information would be already be collected anecdotally from people who are homebound, but much of it could be obtained in a detailed readers advisory interview and recorded (simply) on a patron profile record. Appeal characteristics are simply what makes the book, film or recording appeal to the 6
reader, watcher or listener. It is the hook which draws people into the work, and which keeps them reading, listening or watching. There are numerous ways of interpreting this, but I will focus on the appeal characteristics suggested by Nancy Pearl1. Nancy Pearl divides appeal characteristics into four categories which she calls doorways as they are the doorways into the book. They are character, language, setting and story. Just because someone is drawn to read something because of the characters does not necessarily mean they will have no interest in the language, setting and story of the work. They may be interested in them or they may not. For some works each doorway will be equally strong, but for most one doorway will predominate. As well as asking home bound clients about the authors and genres they like reading it is possible to ask and record information about the doorway they prefer to enter their reading through. Asking clients about this should not be as blank as saying do you read for setting, story, character or language? This would rarely provide a productive answer, as most people will not have thought about their reading this way. A brief interview asking people what they have read recently and why they enjoyed it should provide at enough clues to get started. If people talk about really enjoying the description of the places this is giving clues to both language and setting. This would give two pathways to explore with the reader. Someone may comment on the vividness of the locations, this is probably a setting indicator. Someone who reads primarily to find out about the characters will talk about the people they were reading about as if they are real. If someone reads for story they will probably mention that they enjoyed the plot or story or what was happening or finding out what was going to happen. They also may talk about the speed at which the action happened (and it does not have to be fast action). These methods do not have to slow down the selection, but they can make for a richer reading experience for home bound clients. There are some strong ties between some doorways and some genres, but you can’t over generalise about this for example not all crime readers read for story or character. There are themes in each of these doorways to make the selection faster. Keep in mind that you can always refine the selections on later visits. What I am suggesting is not new, but hopefully it will help both the readers and those who are doing the selection. Many people like a combination of the doorways, but one or two will usually be dominant, and one of them may be really unimportant to the reader as well. Also there are quite a few books which can be approached through all four doorways for example books by JRR Tolkien, Neal Stephenson, Jane Austen and much non-fiction The doorways character People will describe the experience of reading in terms of the characters they are reading about – the characters of novels will sound like they are real people. The reader may not necessarily like the person or the character, but they will want to find out more about them • In fiction the works will often have a character’s name in the title, for non-fiction it will often be biographies or autobiographies. It may also include celebrity chefs
Nancy Pearl presentation at the State Library of New South Wales, December 2007
(think of Jamie Oliver and Gordon Ramsay). Many crime and mystery novels will have strong character doorways as will some science fiction and fantasy. This is more likely to happen in series novels using the same detectives, and multipart science fiction and fantasy works. Family sagas can also have dominant character doorways as you need to know who has married whom. Romance is a genre which is almost totally character dominant (as you know that the man and woman will end up together). For romance you need to explore further into the character – what roles the men have (farmer, fireman, doctor…) and if it is a believable match. language People who read primarily for language will describe the writing, or their enjoyment of the writing as part of the experience, they may describe the books as being poetic, powerful or using powerful language. People may also describe their reading as being emotional, or having moving ideas or language • most likely to be award winners (as most writing awards target literary fiction which is more likely to have language as a doorway) • how steamy (for romance) or how gory (for crime, science fiction, fantasy, horror) will also be characteristics associated with language. setting This has readers describing the location as important, often in terms of details about daily life wherever or whenever. Readers will talk about the place (rather than the people). This will be a cross genre appeal characteristic, for example some people will only enjoy historical crime novels (perhaps only ones featuring actual historic characters in a fictional setting, or only romances set in the middle ages or earlier). • some works written about other times and other places, whether historical or imagined (speculative fiction) will include setting as a important doorway • with speculative fiction there are also setting preferences. Some people may only like fantasy set in recognisable locations (such as Seam William’s works set in South Australia). story These can be fiction or non-fiction. This doorway will include action and thrillers as well as slower moving works. Some of these works will not be strong in the language doorway. Readers will have preferences about what the story should include (crime must be solved, how did the couple meet) • most likely to be ‘the books which could not be put down” as people keep reading to see what happens in the story • story points which resonate It is also worth keeping in mind that genres are often not simple categories but there are many different sub genres. For example readers of paranormal romance may only like those works involving vampires, and not the ones involving werewolves. Use of video instant messaging for communication for reading groups Not everyone can travel to a library to participate in a reading group. Some people may be so frail that the travel to the library would leave them too tired to participate in a discussion. To save exhausting older readers, libraries could consider facilitating video instant messaging for reading groups. The library could match people up by the time they are available. Some of this could even be done on a just in time basis so that on a particular day and time those who are available participate. Most instant messaging 8
systems seem to allow six people to be in each video based discussion. Video instant messaging is a simple technology to learn. Each person could login to their instant message program of choice and use this as an online forum for discussion2. This method would allow people to talk together about what they have read without having to be mobile. It allows people to see who they are talking with. It provides social interaction and intellectual stimulation without people needing to meet together in person as they can meet together online. As well as working for older people who are not mobile this may work well for parents at home looking after small children (as they could walk away from the discussion when they needed to attend to their child), and it would also work well for people with disabilities. This mix of readers would encourage fun intergenerational reading groups. I have not yet found examples of this kind of reading group taking place, but it is only a matter of time before they become visible. Reading group discussions have already taken place in Second Life. Imagine if the avatars of the readers were tailored to either the genre of material being discussed (think about a Jane Austen book group where all the characters discussed the book or a thriller where all the people discussing it seemed like characters out of James Bond or Matthew Reilly) or people’s reaction to the book (for example the more an avatar glows the more the person enjoyed the reading/listening/viewing experience or perhaps a green halo around the avatar means the reader felt ambivalent about the work). Reading group discussions could also take place in multi user dimensional games, such as World of Warcraft3. Participants could agree on the location and time, and use the existing chat function to have the discussion, or they could use voice discussion. People would just need to watch out for wandering hunters and rogues. Imagine having to interrupt a World of Warcraft based reading group to actually fight off people who wanted to interfere or because of imaginary wildlife trying to kill your character. Note World of Warcraft is a subscription game, but libraries could choose to engage with existing World of Warcraft subscribers without those subscribers paying extra. World of Warcraft has more than 11.5 million subscribers each month4 and they are spread over a range of ages around the world. Some of them may already be amongst your readers Using a games interface will appeal to people, whatever their age, who like games or it may depend on the topic which is being discussed at the time. You may not play online games, but do you know how many of your housebound readers do? Or do you know what that statistic is likely to look like in even five years time? Did you know that women over the age of 25 play the most pc based games5 or that 7% of 55 – 64 year old people play Playstation36? Table 5 shows the current internet access by age group. As you can see the number
For example Meebo allows up to six people to video conference at one time http://lifehacker.com/software/videoconferencing/six+person-video-conferencing-with-meebotokbox-324793.php accessed 23 March 2009 3 Wikipedia description of World of Warcraft http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/World_of_Warcraft [accessed 16 April 2009] 4 http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/World_of_Warcraft [accessed 30 March 2009] 5 Women 25+ Dominate PC Gamer Demographic http://www.escapistmagazine.com/news/view/90771-Women-25Dominate-PC-Gamer-Demographic [accessed 16 April 2009] 6 Siegal, Scott Jon New study compares 360, PS3 consumers, Joystiq http://www.joystiq.com/tag/demographics/ [accessed 16 April 2009]
of older people using the internet is going to increase rapidly in the next few years. This is a great opportunity for changing how libraries engage with older readers. table 5: Australian Internet access and use at home by age - 2006-077 Internet access Internet use Age group (years) % % 15-24 79.7 76.5 25-34 75.8 71.8 35-44 80.2 72.6 45-54 78.5 66.5 55-64 64.7 51.7 65-74 42.2 28.1 75 and over 21.8 10.5 Total 69.5 60.9 There are many opportunities for engaging with frail readers in imaginative and creative ways. Planning for the future of home library service (or remote delivery) As the number of frail aged people increases dramatically in Australia and New Zealand the opportunities for online delivery of services will also increase. People will be able to manage their own downloads because using computers is not new to them. The library service offered may become even more like a remote readers advisors service with home bound clients ringing, e-mailing, texting or twittering their requests and inquiries, and links to the relevant resources being e-mailed, texted or tweeted back to them. This increasingly remote delivery of service highlights the need to plan for the provision of reading groups which allow people to remain in their own homes (or nursing homes) while they are discussing material. It also means we have to think imaginatively about how to deliver home library services in a very different way to their current delivery as with increased numbers of people requiring the service the current model is not sustainable. RA mostly provided by face to face or telephone interview with Mobile Library Services staff. We have a detailed RA form that staff can complete (from the user interview) and submit to Adult Services RA specialists who will provide a suggested reading list for that user. In addition to asking what they like to read by author or genre, we ask them which formats they prefer or use .regular or large print, audio cassette or cd, video cassette or dvd. This comment from the recent survey highlights a good model to consider for the future, that of increased collaboration with other library staff. This is also a way of ensuring sustainability for a growth service, and it would help reduce the isolation which some home library service staff feel within their workplaces. Planning intergenerational readers advisory services From what I have written earlier in this paper there is a strong theme of intergenerational readers’ advisory services. This is important as it is too easy to mix people together because they have similar ages, but they may have totally dissimilar reading interests, or they just may not want to only mix with older people. If mixed age reading groups are deliberately planned (rather than hoping they happen by themselves) it will benefit all the different age groups involved. It also may help break
4102.0 - Australian Social Trends, 2008, ABS 2006-07 Household Use of Information Technology Survey http://www.abs.gov.au/AUSSTATS/abs@.nsf/Lookup/4102.0Chapter10002008 [accessed 16 April 2009]
down some barriers of distrust which can be felt between people of different ages and backgrounds and can help build a stronger community. 23% of responding libraries are planning intergenerational readers advisory services for 55 – 65 year olds. This declines slightly to 20% for fit over 65 year olds and further falls to 15% for frail over 65 year olds. The lack of planning is of particular concern for the frail over 65 age group as these people require more assistance. They may still be able to visit the library, but what they can read, or carry to read limits their reading. Some of my earlier suggestions for creative online reading groups may help to increase this percentage. Planning for more in library reading groups may also help provide services for older readers, whatever age they are. One library surveyed mentioned their Intergenerational program for seniors & preschoolers, using book & craft. Also programs and book drop-offs at senior living facilities another said Our book clubs are open to all ages. We are in the early stages of planning a Housebound Reading Group, which will cater for readers 55 yrs and older, as well as including our housebound borrowers not in this age group. Our plans for an online book club will be for all ages. Large Print reading lists are already underway, suitable for all adult readers. These reading lists include items from our LP and Hear-a-book (novels on CDs/tapes) Collections. table 6: Planning intergenerational readers advisory services for older adults
One library wrote about how they are approaching readers advisory services saying that they are in the process of setting a Readers' Advisory Team who will be trained using Rewarding Reading training. This group which will have staff from each branch, including representatives from Housebound service and Book Club facilitators will plan programs for the whole community especially looking at CALD and older people Don’t make assumptions Don’t make assumptions about age specific reading or reading related programming. The largest area of diversity is between different people rather than different age groups, but you still need to keep different age groups in mind so that the programming and resources you are making available are accessible to people of all ages. You might be running reading groups which are open for all ages, but consider the involvement of people of different ages in your planning so that you are offering your services based on equity. This means considering the times as well as the locations for the groups, it also means considering the formats available and the methods of 11
discussion. It may be time to think about managing an increasing number of reading groups in a sustainable way. You may even want to consciously have one of the knitting groups in the library also function as a reading group with people talking about their reading while they are knitting. We are currently providing a survey patrons can fill out regarding their reading tastes. After turning in the survey patrons are provided with an annotated bibliography of at least 10 books matching their tastes. This service is provided to all adult patrons. You also have to keep the physical strength of the reader in mind. Imagine a large print version of any of Neal Stephenson’s novels. Each novel would be a multi volume work requiring weightlifting skills unless it was read as a e-book. E-books have great possibilities for readers who, because of hand strength, require smaller objects to held, but still require items in large print. The e-book format means that the reader does not need to wait until the large print version of a title is available (and the title may never be printed in large print), they only need to wait until the e-book version is available instead. This also gives an improved delivery time as often the e-book is available at the same time as the paper copy. At present if you are a large print reader (because you can no longer read small print even with your glasses on and with using a magnifying glass), and your library does not have access to e-books (and e-books still have a way to go before they fully deliver on their promises) you have a depressingly small range of materials you can either read or listen to. This is the same narrow selection whether you visit the library to select your own materials or order them online for delivery through the mail (as is possible for all readers from the Orange County Library Service in Orlando, Florida) or they are delivered as part of a home bound library service. As a fiction reader you have a limited choice. Where is the large print chick lit, paranormal romance, science fiction or fantasy works? But if you read non-fiction as part of your mix you have almost no choice. I think this limited range of reading and listening options has influenced how older readers have been treated. This is not a criticism of the service delivery, but of the options available. If you are doubtful about this go back to your library and see how long you can happily read the large print books and the unabridged talking books before you become frustrated by their lack of range or frustrated by what you can’t read. Then imagine having to do this for the next ten to twenty years. E-books can offer a good alternative, already the Kindle can read every newspaper, magazine, blog and book out loud to you, unless the book is disabled by the rights holder. You can switch back and forth between reading and listening, and your spot is automatically saved. Pages automatically turn while the content is being read, so you can listen hands-free. You can choose from both male and female voices which can be sped up or slowed down to suit your preference. In the middle of a great book or article but have to jump in the car? Simply turn on Text-to-Speech and listen on the go.8 Imagine giving one of these to each housebound reader – and giving them control over how they access your collection. Or having them use their own Kindles (or whatever
Kindle promotional information http://www.amazon.com/Kindle-Amazons-Wireless-ReadingGeneration/dp/B00154JDAI/ref=amb_link_82725531_1/188-0925464-3011069? pf_rd_m=ATVPDKIKX0DER&pf_rd_s=special-offers1&pf_rd_r=00N02KKZVPRQZDCQ19WA&pf_rd_t=201&pf_rd_p=469621151&pf_rd_i=B000FI73MA Accessed 23 March 2009
the next version of e-book readers is) to access your collection. A similar thing can already be done with titles from Overdrive or EBL. An increasing trend for frail aged readers won’t be regular visits by homebound library staff or volunteers, but regular downloads which they do themselves (with an implementation time from tomorrow to 10 years). Even the frail aged are bringing increasingly sophisticated computer skills to library use. It’s also about the catalogue One of the key readers’ advisory tools is the library catalogue, and how it is designed, planned and maintained influences its effectiveness for readers advisory work. It is a key resource which risks being undervalued. Even simple value adding such as Hennepin County Library has done with their catalogue9 increases the usability for their readers. Their quick polls, suggested titles and lists all add value for people who are coming to the catalogue in search of something to read. They are offering browsing options to choose from. This is accessible from anywhere with an internet connection. To save people having to write down authors and titles before checking the shelves some libraries have implemented a text message component for their library catalogues10. This way you can search for a title and send the bibliographic record to your mobile device (telephone, pda) as a text, you can then walk to the shelves to locate the item. This also has further possibilities because you could text a request to staff (if you were outside the library) to collect the item for you and hold it as a reserve. This would also be another way for technologically savvy homebound readers to be able to request items. This leads on to catalogues which are readable on portable devices11. This would be even more useful if it could be combined with the texting feature so that you could keep track of the titles you are interested in. The addition of rss feeds from library catalogues12 is another key enhancement to allow readers to be kept up to date with new titles in areas of interest. The rss feeds are enhanced by meaningful subject headings for remote selection of titles. This is more obvious with non-fiction that with fiction titles as many libraries continue to avoid adding subject headings to fiction. Allowing and encouraging client reviews of items is also a great way to engage reader of all ages, as Coffs Harbour Library13 and Stockholm Public Library14 just to name a few, are doing. It would also be possible to include a “people who read’ option like on Amazon, made anonymous, so that you can see the strange and wonderful pairings other people make with their reading. While these features are not specifically about usability for those aged 55 and older, they can help this expanding age group, and benefit others as well.
Hennepin County Library catalogue https://catalog.hclib.org/ipac20/ipac.jsp?profile=elibrary [accessed 16 April 2009] 10 University of Arkansas library catalogue http://tiny.cc/98I8z [accessed 16 April 2009] 11 State Library of New South Wales catalogue for mobile devices http://library.sl.nsw.gov.au/airpac/ [accessed 17 April 2009] 12 Woolahra Library catalogue http://library.woollahra.nsw.gov.au/libero/WebOpac.cls [accessed 17 April 2009] 13 Coffs Harbour Library catalogue http://library.coffsharbour.nsw.gov.au/cgi-bin/spydus.exe/MSGTRN/OPAC/BSEARCH[accessed 17 April 2009] 14 Stockholm Library catalogue http://www.biblioteket.stockholm.se/default.asp?id=2817&refid=2985 [accessed 17 April 2009]
Planning for the future As you can see from table 7 about one quarter of library services are planning specific readers advisory services for older adults. Going back to an idea mentioned earlier in this paper, it makes good sense from a service perspective to plan readers advisory services for older adults as it can provide a better outcome for the future of individuals as well as build community, and social inclusion. Libraries remain one of the few public spaces with intergenerational activity and interaction. table 7: Planning readers advisory services
One of the key developments to plan for is deliberate cross age engagement for some readers advisory work. This can occur using tools like video instant messaging for a reading group, or holding a book discussion in World of Warcraft or some other online game space. The key is imagining a future and thinking creatively about service delivery and being prepared for providing some library services, especially for people who are homebound, in a radically different way. It also means talking with all your readers about what they are interested in and planning readers advisory services based on consultation. You might have a group of people who are happy to meet each month to discuss cooking books, this may be age specific or it may be a good mixer for the community, but you won’t know if you don’t ask. Reading groups will continue to be a key service delivery. These take planning because readers have different expectations about what they are looking for in a group. Some will be looking for a group of like minded people (readers of technology based science fiction, older men, women with adult children) while other will be seeking groups with diversity of age, gender and interests. This requires talking with your readers and trying for the best fit which you can obtain within your community. A big area which needs work is the range of materials which can be read by people who are vision impaired. As mentioned earlier the current range of large print reading options only permits a certain, narrow range of reading preferences. This is something which will have to change over time, and at present e-books offer the most promise in this area. While it is important to think about library services for specific age groups it is also important to be open to some deliberate cross generational collaborations. For example in thinking of effective methods for online reading groups for older, frail people I thought about other people who would benefit from not having to travel to a readers group (without having to host the group). This was where the idea of having an intergenerational online readers group came from, combining people who can’t leave their homes because of their frailty, disabilities or for whom it can be complicated (for 14
example parents with child care responsibilities who have just managed to get their children to sleep). Adult summer reading programs (or anytime of year reading programs) Adult summer reading programs are recent introduction to some public libraries in Australia. There could be some interesting ways to target these for older readers, including those who are homebound. In Australia we have either themed state wide reading program as in Victoria or individual libraries running adult reading programs over summer, like Shellharbour and Mosman15 ran a few months ago. For the future Amongst much older readers there is an interest in reading what they read when they were young. This raised issues of are the titles trackable through tools such as Libraries Australia16 or Te Puna New Zealand national bibliographic database17? Are the titles available for inter library loan or are they research items only. Older items will be less likely to be findable through online databases, and fiction will have less holdings listed as well. Added to this is the cost to the reader of borrowing items, are the costs passed along, or are they absorbed by the libraries? Are these titles available in large print or as talking books? Some of these older titles would be digitised through Google books18, Project Gutenberg19 or other digitisation programs, but there is no single search space to locate these. This will require library staff to continue to be persistent and innovative. This process of searching for titles increases in complexity to deliver materials in languages other than English. When planning reading maps20 you may want to create them with your clients. Cocreation, where staff and clients (in this case, readers) work together is a growing trend (think of Wikipedia21). If you choose not to use a co-creation model you could plan reading maps for fantasy trips for readers who are not able to be very mobile anymore, or who prefer discovering about the world by reading, watching or listening. Reading trails which have are series of linked reads (where the reader follows the trail) have lots of possibilities for older readers to contribute and to enjoy. There is even an online site for reading trails22 which anyone can contribute to. This may be a site to encourage your readers to interact with as they can each share their expertise of reading and create reading trails for others to follow. Online readers forums are also a useful way to encourage readers to interact with each other. You could set up your own for your own library, or collaborate on this. You will also need to keep monitoring and experimenting with social networks being used by your clients. Have you thought of providing readers advisory information on
Read a good book this summer refdesk.mosmanlibraryblogs.com/article/54/read-a-good-book-this-summer-tellsomeone-about-it [accessed 26 March 2008] 16 Libraries Australia http://www.nla.gov.au/librariesaustralia/ [accessed 21 April 2009] 17 Te Puna New Zealand national bibliographic database http://nlnzcat.natlib.govt.nz/ [accessed 21 April 2009] 18 Google book search http://books.google.com/ [accessed 21 April 2009] 19 Project Gutenberg http://www.gutenberg.org/wiki/Main_Page [accessed 21 April 2009] 20 Oak Park Public Library Blues music reading map http://www.oppl.org/media/readingmap/08_blues.pdf [accessed 21 April 2009] 21 Wikipedia http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Main_Page [accessed 21 April 2009] 22 Reading trails http://www.readingtrails.com/index.php [accessed 21 April 2009]
Twitter, or of encouraging your clients to use Twitter for readers advisory ideas? Denver Library23, Vancouver Public Library24, City of Casa Grande25 and WashingtonCentreville Public Library26 are amongst the libraries experimenting with providing some readers advisory services through Twitter. Mosman Library27 links their twitter account to their ning. Mosman readers is an excellent example of using a ning to engage with readers28. Nings allow you to form your own online community, to facilitate and encourage interaction. There are many excellent examples of library blogs to encourage reading including Read me Vegas29 and Novel ideas30 so there are plenty of models to consider if this is one of the tools you will try using. There are numerous ways to interact with your older readers, and with the older people in your community who have not yet discovered the library and the amazing services which you can provide. It is really important to talk with them about the services you are considering. It is also important to consider intergenerational readers advisory activities and services as this is a healthy option for the whole community. It is also an area to innovate, and to lead the way with new ideas. Readers advisory services for older adults is an area to experiment in so that we make new mistakes31 and we learn from them and provide even better and more imaginative services.
Denver Library http://twitter.com/denverlibrary [accessed 22 April 2009] Vancouver Public Library http://twitter.com/VPL [accessed 22 April 2009] 25 City of Casa Grande Public Library http://twitter.com/cglibrary [accessed 22 April 2009] 26 Washington-Centreville Public Library http://twitter.com/washcentlibrary [accessed 22 April 2009] 27 Mosman Library http://twitter.com/mosmanreaders [accessed 23 April 2009] 28 Mosman readers http://www.mosmanreaders.net/ [accessed 22 April 2009] 29 Read me Vegas http://readmevegas.blogspot.com/ [accessed 22 April 2009] 30 Novel ideas http://blogs.manly.nsw.gov.au/novelideas/ [accessed 22 April 2009] 31 50 Ways to Foster a Sustainable Culture of Innovation The heart of innovation http://www.ideachampions.com/weblogs/archives/2009/02/50_ways_to_fost_1.shtml [accessed 17 April 2009]