Transforming Life After 50: Public Libraries and Baby Boomers
Approximately 78 million babies were born in the United States during the boom years of 1946 to 1964. Researchers project these “baby boomers,” the first of whom turned 60 in 2006, will be the largest, healthiest, wealthiest, best educated Americans ever to move through and beyond their fifties.
Research indicates that these 78 million look at retirement in radically different ways from their parents. Consequently, they are expected to dramatically redefine what middle and late life means. Baby boomers envision the years after formal employment not as a time for leisure and decline, but as a time to begin new activities, set new goals, and establish meaningful legacies. By mobilizing and engaging baby boomers, community organizations, such as public libraries, can access and benefit from this extraordinary pool of potential social and human capital.
But first, libraries will need to reconsider how they do business with this customer group, because traditional services for “seniors” will not satisfy boomer interests or needs. By 2014, 65% of current library customers will be between 50 and 75 years of age. In California, the state’s older population is expected to grow more than twice as fast as the state’s total population, increasing 112% from 1990 to 2020, or 8.5 million people (20% of California’s total population). As early as 2010, one in five Californians will be 60 years of age or older. And yet, today’s sometimes dated library service paradigm for “seniors” neither targets baby boomers, nor seeks their experience, wisdom, and contributions. By re-envisioning their services to better serve active, older adults, public libraries can become cornerstone institutions for baby boomers and productive aging. Public libraries are, after all, committed to lifelong engagement and learning.
California State Library launches Boomer initiative this summer, convenes Boomer Institute this fall
This summer, the California State Library will launch its “Transforming Life after 50,” a statewide initiative designed to assist public libraries in redefining, creating and delivering new and innovative services to the state’s growing population of active, older adults. In the initiative’s first year, a three-day “Transforming Life after 50” Institute will be convening in Pasadena from November 27-29. The Pasadena Institute will promote an understanding of older adults as resources for their communities and will offer an alternative to the predominant deficit-based model of aging. Up to 50 public libraries will be accepted to attend the Institute. Each selected library will be asked to send one administrative manager and one “front-line” adult services librarian to the Institute at no cost to the library. The Institute will introduce participants to a new framework for working with active, older adults that promotes productive aging through learning and civic engagement. The Institute will also provide training in community assessment and in the utilization of standardized assessment tools designed specifically for this project and its target population.
The Institute will focus on: 1) the research and thinking underlying new approaches to working with midlife and older adults; 2) promising practices; and 3) assessment and leadership skills in community librarianship. After completion of the Institute, participating libraries will also be asked to undertake a local assessment of their own community, and then be invited to submit targeted grant proposals that would address the needs thus identified. A consulting team will also provide technical assistance and data analysis of the local assessments to the participating libraries. In addition, each participating library will receive up to $1,000 reimbursement for staffing costs associated with undertaking their own local assessment.
All targeted proposals submitted will be reviewed and accepted on a competitive basis with the most innovative and compelling being funded for the 2008/09 LSTA grant cycle. These targeted grants are intended to enable libraries to implement promising practices, test and refine models, help disseminate models, train or mentor other adult services librarians, and participate in evaluation of innovative practices implemented to date.
For more information, contact Suzanne Flint, Library Programs Consultant, at (916) 651-9796 or firstname.lastname@example.org.