Special Patrons

Working with older adults

It's important to be sensitive to the possibility that a patron may have a physical impairment (poor vision or hearing) that makes communication more difficult. Many older patrons also have trouble moving quickly or bending, reaching, and grasping for materials.

While we should not make assumptions about older patrons and their ability to communicate their needs, we can be sensitive to the aging process. Offering a large print version of a book may be welcome, and it may be a service that your patrons are unaware that you offer.

Some older patrons may not be comfortable with the new technology in libraries. Remember that people have a natural resistance to change when they have fond memories of a specific institution. These patrons may need some encouragement to try online catalogs or Internet searching.

Older patrons may also be seeking more social contact when visiting the library. Libraries have become much more active. More staff and more activity can lead to a loss of the connection patrons remember from “their childhood librarian.” Even now we connect children to a specific librarian through story times and other activities in youth services, and these memories may lead to many patrons seeking social contact with other staff.

Libraries often provide social contact, but a busy reference desk isn't a good place for a leisurely chat. Be sure to practice your skills for politely ending conversations.

Don’t make assumptions about a person’s information needs based solely on age, but understand that age can be an indicator of the need for specific services and interactions.

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This page was updated on November 21, 2003.