Reading Jennifer Burek Pierce’s An Old Friend in the Library (American Libraries, August 2012) brings to mind my 91-year-old mother, and how she is no longer really able to use her public library. It also brings to mind Ranganathan’s Five Laws of Library Science:
- Books are for use.
- Every reader his (or her) book.
- Every book its reader.
- Save the time of the reader.
- The library is a growing organism.
Yes, even the frail and elderly should be able to obtain the books and other materials they want and need. Pierce’s article talks about her 84-year-old friend who always goes to the same shelf because that “row, closest to both an entrance and a self-check station, didn’t require her to walk the full length of the building.” She can’t reach, or see, the books on the higher shelves. There is no seating in this area, although there is often a shelving stool nearby that she can sit on. In contrast is “the new bookstore-emulating part of the library that is furnished with real chairs, easy-to-reach shelves, and cover-forward shelving. Large-print titles aren’t to be found there.”
Also in contrast, “Think of all the things we do to make those spaces usable for kids: low shelves; bold, attractive signage. Think of all the training and professional rhetoric about establishing ways to interact with teens that recognize their need for independence versus the inherent limitations of their age. Why don’t we strive to serve the elderly in the same ways?”
When you arrange or remodel your library, write or revise your policies, train your staff, create your signage, are you keeping this demographic in mind?