Commentary

The Victoria Standard - - Front Page - FROM THE ED­I­TOR

It is time our elected of­fi­cials learned that ev­ery week is Seniors week at the li­brary

Since 2015, the first week of October has come to be known as Seniors Week in Nova Sco­tia.

Ac­cord­ing to a N.S. Depart­ment of Seniors (DOS) news re­lease on Sept. 29, 2017, “Li­braries across the province will host free events fo­cused on the in­ter­ests of older adults.”

Peo­ple at­tuned to li­brary pro­gram­ming might find this state­ment ironic, if not a lit­tle out of touch.

First, the em­pha­sis on li­braries host­ing free events be­trays an ig­no­rance of the rich and vi­tal pro­gram­ming that li­braries of­fer seniors ev­ery week of the year, free of charge.

Sec­ond, stress­ing that the week’s events will cater to seniors demon­strates a lack of un­der­stand­ing of what li­braries are all about. Ex­plore this year’s Seniors week sched­ule at li­brary. nova sco­tia. ca and you will be hard­pressed to dif­fer­en­ti­ate it from any other week on a li­brary cal­en­dar. That is be­cause ev­ery week is Seniors week at the li­brary. The mod­ern li­brary rep­re­sents the quin­tes­sen­tial, multi-gen­er­a­tional space where youth, mid­dle-aged and older year pa­trons can co-ex­ist peace­fully, and of­ten co­op­er­a­tively.

Li­brar­i­ans un­der­stand and ac­knowl­edge their se­nior pa­trons’ life ex­pe­ri­ence and col­lec­tion of life/work skills and honour this with en­gag­ing pro­gram­ming in ad­di­tion to a place to pass the time with a good book, a warm con­ver­sa­tion, or a help­ing hand. Li­brary pro­grams teach seniors new skills, and of­fer them plat­forms to teach other mem­bers of their com­mu­nity. For ex­am­ple, the Cape Bre­ton Regional Li­brary - Bad­deck branch re­cently had guest speaker Judy King teach wool felt­ing and David Perl­man speak about dig­i­tal photography ma­nip­u­la­tion.

Other reg­u­lar, se­nior­friendly pro­gram­ming in Bad­deck in­cludes restora­tive yoga, evening movies, a colour­ing club, bi-monthly knit­ting and a light lunch, oneto-one technology tu­tor­ing, var­i­ous pub­lic in­for­ma­tion ses­sions and the much­lauded wee-ones pro­gram at Alder­wood in which li­brary pro­gram­ming is taken off-site to the nearby nurs­ing home and tod­dlers sign and play in the com­pany of elders. For the more tra­di­tional pa­tron, books are still avail­able for loan, and can be dis­cussed dur­ing reg­u­lar Book Club meet­ings. The branch of­fers over 500 pro­grams an­nu­ally, many of which are open to se­nior in­volve­ment.

While pub­lic aware­ness of li­braries is an on­go­ing process, it is our elected rep­re­sen­ta­tives who may re­quire the great­est ed­u­ca­tion.

In Fe­bru­ary, three months be­fore a provin­cial elec­tion was called, the govern­ment re­leased their first-ever Cul­ture Ac­tion Plan. The plan states that a Cul­ture In­no­va­tion Fund will be de­vel­oped con­tain­ing “tar­geted monies to sup­port the de­vel­op­ment of cul­ture hubs in com­mu­ni­ties – places like li­braries and mu­se­ums.” Sounds pos­i­tive, but there is no men­tion of what a “cul­ture hub” is, let alone spe­cific amounts of money that might be ear­marked for li­braries.

A month later, the govern­ment re­leased “Shift: Nova Sco­tia’s Ac­tion Plan for an Ag­ing Pop­u­la­tion”, along with a $13.6 mil­lion com­mit­ment to pre­pare for the province’s change in me­dian age. In the sin­gle-spaced, 32-page plan, li­braries are men­tioned once con­cern­ing their po­ten­tial as “a com­mu­nity In­ter­net/ dig­i­tal lit­er­acy training project” hub. Well, twice if you count the men­tion of a past part­ner­ship amongst C@P, St. F/X, the Cana­dian In­ter­net Reg­is­tra­tion Au­thor­ity and the Nova Sco­tia Pub­lic Li­brary for a pro­gram en­ti­tled Con­nect­ing Older Adults with Mo­bile Technology. But that’s all - a place where com­put­ers can be housed and seniors can get lessons on how to use the tablet their kids bought them for Christ­mas.

Yes, li­braries can be “hubs” for fu­ture so­cial and tech­no­log­i­cal projects, but they must also be rec­og­nized for the com­mu­nity hubs they al­ready are.

At the start of Seniors Week, The Mu­nic­i­pal­ity of the County of Vic­to­ria re­leased their Age Friendly Strat­egy Plan, spear­headed by Coun­cil­lor Fraser Pat­ter­son. In the 45-page doc­u­ment that touched on is­sues of so­cial con­nec­tiv­ity, civic en­gage­ment, the built en­vi­ron­ment and com­mu­nity sup­port ser­vices, li­braries re­ceived ab­so­lutely no men­tion what­so­ever; a glar­ing omis­sion con­sid­er­ing how in­her­ently age friendly li­braries are. To their credit, au­thors of the Age Friendly Plan de­scribe it as a “liv­ing doc­u­ment” that is “the com­mu­nity’s to use and mod­ify over time.” Hope­fully, the doc­u­ment will soon re­ceive its first mod­i­fi­ca­tion.

Fi­nally, On Sept. 26, an­nounce­ment of the provin­cial bud­get once again dis­ap­pointed staff and pa­trons of the li­brary sys­tem in its fail­ure to in­crease core fund­ing to the sys­tem.

In a province as cash­strapped as Nova Sco­tia, fi­nan­cial pru­dence would dic­tate that we max­i­mize the util­ity of ex­ist­ing ser­vices that give tax­pay­ers the great­est re­turn on their in­vest­ment. For that, the govern­ment of Nova Sco­tia need not look any fur­ther than the pub­lic li­brary sys­tem to in­vest in.

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