top of page

The Public Library: A Hidden Jewel

Updated: Feb 15

Library Memories from Youth

When I wa elementary school age on the East Coast, my mother took me weekly to the local library, where I checked out up to four books at a time. As an elder, in California, I continue to appreciate the ever-expanding library services for pre-schoolers through elders.

Role of Public Libraries in Eldercare

The assisted living communities where I worked had an ongoing relationship with their local library. Following are a few of the services the libraries provided to the elder communities:

  • Librarian monthly on-site presentation to the assisted living community

  • Books freely donated to the community

  • Free audio devices for the hearing impaired, plus audio discs of books

  • Special opera film showings with live orchestra at the main San Francisco Public Library

  • Scheduled tours of the hearing-impaired library rooms

  • Free tech training offered by a city-wide mobile library which drove to the assisted living community

Expansion of Library Services

More recently, library services have expanded to include even more services, including, but not limited to, the following:

  • Storywalks A StoryWalk® is a fun, family-friendly, outdoor activity, where pages of a book are placed along a walking route. Each stop along the way displays one page of the book. Though this activity features children's books, any age can enjoy and learn on a Storywalk.

  • Expanded borrowing of physical items at one time (i.e. 100 books/magazines, 20 Books on CD, 20 DVDs, 20 music CDs)

  • No more fees for overdue books; replacement for lost or damaged material still apply

  • Entended check-out and automatic renewal of some items

  • Expanded book return, such as book drops

  • More and more online services

  • Public computers and equipment (including ADA-compliant computers + library printer)

  • 3-D printing & X-R Programs

  • XRStars Program, Chromebook's and Wi-Fi Hotspots to borrow

  • Lynda courses (this is the log-in for Marin County library card-holders; the free online courses cover a multitude of topics). LinkedIn bought Lynda online courses, now called "in Learning. I took a LinkedIn course on roles of non-profit Board members and am currently exploring film-making courses.

  • "Link+ is a group of more than 60 libraries across California and Nevada that you can borrow items from for free, using Marin County library card. If an item is not available from Marin County libraries, it may be possible to borrow it from one of the library's Link+ partners.

Giving, as well as Receiving Services

Libraries can give opportunities for users to offer, as well as receive, services. A few years ago, when I was in a job transition, I presented at the local library on the topic "Why We Need Heroes." Whether on-site or online, get-togethers like this are usually free. They can provide social connection and open partipants' minds to different perspectives. I also conducted, through a local Age-Friendly association. inter-generational page-to-screen groups, borrowing DVDs and related books from the local library for discussion.

Now many books, comic books, audios, magazines, films, tv shows, and music are available through distance delivery. The library system offers such apps as: Freegal, Hoopla, Kanopy, OverDrive, Alexander Street Publishing, and other streaming services (Source). Some libraries give away or sell books at minimal prices. You may be able to bring in to your local library a carton of books and magazines that you want to give away.

Reading Books with Youngsters

If you've read my blog posts, you know how excited I am about elders reading books with youngsters, especially if they have a musical and/or film component. Among the benefits of libraries for all ages are that books and related music are enjoyable, they expand the mind, sharpen the brain, enhance reading/listening skills, and provide lifelong opportunities for intergenerational connections (i.e., grandparenting, tutoring in schools, pre-school and family "story time").

As a grandmother, I have the good fortune of being able to visit with my grandchildren weekly. Before I buy a book for the children (which can become costly over time), I check it out from the library (if available), and listen to the accompanying music (on a streaming service; sometimes the book is accompanied by a cd) to determine if the child likes it enough for me to purchase it.

Libraries offer many more free services, which I deeply appreciate, especially since the Pandemic. On-site, and more recently outdoor "storytimes" feature musical instruments, stories, and songs. Distance-delivered and on-site presentations cover topics of interest to library attendees, even for those who don't like to read, or have a difficult time reading books. More and more books (especially for children) are available at my local library for non-English readers and on multi-cultural topics.

Will Libraries Put Book Distributors and Bookstores Out of Business?

If you or your elder community can afford to buy books and subscriptions to other media, libraries will not hold you back from purchasing books and other media that you would like to access for longer periods of time. Retailers may offer more recent publications. On the other hand, county libraries, especially if they link to other services, such as college libraries, may offer more targeted literature published over longer periods of time.

I Wish

To expand learning and quality of life for individuals of all backgrounds, abilities, and ages, libraries can appeal to the multi-senses (i.e., sight, sound, movement). Following is my wish list for libraries:

  • Intergenerational, interactive, picture books. Illustrations are as important as words for all age groups.

  • Books by authors and illustrators all over the world, incorporating new, as well as old design features, such as anime and manga.

  • Books with fewer words for reading with young children.

  • Books based on films, songs, and different music genres (i.e., classical, jazz, popular)

  • New multi-media formats, such as Dan Brown's "Wild Symphony," You can LISTEN, not just look. If you would like to hear music that corresponds to each page of the book, you can downoad a free app and load it on your handheld device (i.e., iPAD or iPhone).

  • Training programs for "read aloud" inter-generational book groups.

  • More open-air library designs to provide a healthier environment.

Do you have additional stories to share about the role of libraries in your life or in your elder community? If so, please email

18 views0 comments
bottom of page