Reaching Out to Under-Served Populations within the Community

Challenge – reaching out to under-served populations within the community The Adult Day Program serves local adults with mental and physical challenges.  For a variety of reasons, they are unable to access the library on their own and many of them had no idea what was available at the library for them until we started this program.  Recognizing that we had something to offer this group, our Program Coordinator paid a special visit to them and asked if they would like to come to the library and what they would like to do here.

Solution – forged a partnership with the Adult Day Program (for adults with mental and physical challenges) in Houston by tailoring a program to meet their needs. The Adult Day program started coming to the library one Friday afternoon each month. Our library provides them with light refreshments and our staff assists them with finding books and using the Internet.  We allow the participants to check out material for an extended loan period to match the dates they come to the library.  This way they do not have to worry about returning books when they are unable to get to the library on their own and they do not pay fines if they are overdue.  Their care workers are conscious of the books that are borrowed and assist in making sure they are returned.  We have also started doing other activities with them.  They particularly enjoy Wii Bowling and look forward to playing during their visits.  A lot of laughter is generated as they step up to the challenge of competing against one another in a friendly game.  Their visits to the library last about an hour and a half – depending on the activity planned.  We tend to keep it low-key and flexible so that they do not feel like they have to participate in any specific activity.  If they wish to just sit and look at books, that’s fine and we ensure that there are materials they have indicated an interest in set out for them before they arrive.  We focus on getting the participants to tell us what they want and accommodating them as best we can.  Having the books out for them before they arrive helps them immensely as they cannot always find material for themselves or access the stacks easily.  Our main goal is to provide a positive experience at the library.

A Fabulous Result – One elderly participant who originally hailed from Finland wanted to listen to Finnish music. Our staff was able to find some for her on the Internet and she “danced” in her wheel chair for an hour with a big grin on her face while she held the headset tightly to her ears. We had the participants attend a Story Time session to do crafts and listen to stories with the children.  They thoroughly enjoyed the event and have asked to do it again.  They are actively engaging in the partnership by making suggestions for activities that they can do at the library.  We are doing our best to make this happen for them.

~Houston Public Library, 2011