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Library Makeovers Draw Seniors

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

Just west of Royal Oak, the public library in Southfield, Mich., began offering monthly classes on how to start a business, including marketing and financial record keeping. Librarian Tara Moon got the program rolling, and the library now follows up with business-related research assistance.

In the Osterhout Library, Stefanko suggests hands-on presentations to encourage intergenerational participation. Among other events, she hosted a Beatles memorabilia night with music to accompany a tie dye demonstration. With some leftover grant money she bought a variety of large-print books to satisfy the growing audience of older readers in its Classic Corner.

"Libraries anchor the community, if they are doing their job correctly," says Kleiman. "And so many of them are."

The library of the future

With steady outreach, able volunteers and increased grants, Kleiman believes, libraries could outpace senior centers as the place people gather. It could be a throwback to the "People's University," which sprang up on and off college campuses in the 1960s and 1970s.

"Libraries have stayed in there," Kleiman says. "They survived the competition from Barnes & Noble and other booksellers. A decade ago senior centers were the place to go. The library has revived — it is the biggest bargain in town."

Maureen McDonald lives in Michigan.

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