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Library Makeovers Draw Seniors

Public places aim to become inviting senior spaces, offering Wii as well as books

Young and old help each other

In Pennsylvania and New Jersey, state library boards channeled funds from the Federal Library Services and Technology Act to help bolster adult-themed projects, according to Kleiman.

The Osterhout Library in Wilkes-Barre, Pa., benefited from such a grant. Elaine Stefanko, coordinator of information services, established the Classic Corner at her facility with a $4,000 grant from the state's library office, and the effort to draw older adults is ongoing. The Wii machine comes out occasionally, says Stefanko, but the biggest draw is board games, especially chess; often the older patrons teach the young children. Older adults also teach whole families scrapbooking and knitting. The library also encourages patrons to write in the crossword puzzle books because it builds traffic and keeps people there.

Young patrons teach, too. "We invite our teen technology club to teach older people how to set up Twitter and Facebook accounts and upload pictures," Stefanko says.

Business is also steady at the Clymer Library in Pocono Pines, Pa., according to Laura Laspee, Clymer's assistant director of adult programming. Laspee received a $4,000 grant from the Office of Commonwealth Libraries. She had heard about such grants at a talk Kleiman gave at a library conference in 2009. With the money, she created the library's Savvy Senior Space, which opened in June 2010.

"The library is like the old-fashioned general store. Everyone comes in and catches up with everybody else," says Nancy Power, 63. "You hear computers clicking away, people talking, people gaming."

She also has a weekly craft club meeting at the library. "One of my friends is 94 and she drives herself in to chat with us and show her progress on her needlework," Power says.

A community beacon

"These areas are destination points, activity points to encourage people to stay and use the library as 'place,' " Kleiman says. He encourages librarians, who frequently have small budgets for new programs, to seek out community volunteers to run events and teach classes.

Royal Oak Library, in a suburb of Detroit, has been holding a weekly Tech Nite. According to library director Mary Karshner, the Monday night event attracts a multigenerational crowd, ages 35 to 80-plus, who come to learn how to use their latest technical gadgets, e-readers, iPods and tablets. The library also holds Saturday meetings on downloading available material to e-readers. Other programs put local history in the spotlight, and the staff serves favorites from the area — Vernors ginger ale and bumpy cakes from Sander's, the area's popular candymaker.

Next: The library of the future. >>

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