28 April 2020
Photo credit: Saint Charles Public Library District.

How to provide library service to seniors, the most vulnerable population affected during COVID-19, has been the question raised by outreach librarians across the United States. While we might not be able to visit our seniors or facilities in-person for the foreseeable future, libraries can reach this population while we shelter in place. Below please find tips and tricks that the St. Charles (IL) Public Library’s (SCPL) Outreach Services Team (David Kelsey, Dana Hintz, Lynda Spraner, Christine Steck) recommends in serving the senior demographic during COVID-19.

  1. Provide virtual group programs at facilities using Zoom. Have facility staff display programs on big screen TV’s, allowing seniors to easily see and gather around. Encourage engagement and conversations. Showcase topics that trigger reminiscence, such as The Rat Pack or I Love Lucy. Test technology ahead of time with facility staff.
  2. Host one-on-one engagement programs at facilities using Zoom. Craft PowerPoint presentations incorporating songs and video clips, following copyright guidelines. Share your screen with seniors. Have facility staff available to navigate computers and assist with technology. Senior patrons will be happy to see you!
  3. Provide facilities with video links to free virtual tours: museums, national parks, and historic landmarks.
  4. Develop handouts that can be printed by activity directors to engage seniors. Handouts can feature topics including Frank Sinatra, Elvis Presley, and John Wayne. Utilize library databases when creating handouts. Handouts should be in 16 point font and limited to one page, allowing seniors to easily read and follow along.
  5. Compile a list of websites that display free, printable activities such as word searches and crossword puzzles. Activity directors can print activities for seniors on demand.
  6. Call senior patrons on the phone to provide well-being checks. Discuss books and movies that seniors are reading and watching. Provide readers advisory. Remain focused on library related topics.

As seniors shelter in place and are in isolation for safety, outreach librarians must discover new techniques to engage this population as homebound deliveries are suspended. While traditional Library Senior Services has changed, our responsibility to serve this population remains. Outreach librarians must navigate the COVID-19 world as an adventure, exploring methods to remain relevant in seniors’ lives and at facilities. 

View a recorded SCPL Outreach Services program from Tuesday, April 28, 2020.

Our guest blogger today is David Kelsey. David is the Outreach Services Librarian at Saint Charles Public Library District. David is also the 2020 President Elect of Association of Bookmobile and Outreach Services (ABOS).