When I lived in New York City I would, on occasion, find myself dining with folks not usually in my social circle. These people would ask what I did for a living and they could be a bit surprised when I said I was a librarian. “A librarian? Are there still libraries anymore?” they’d joke. “Didn’t ebooks get rid of them?” Poor souls. Little did they know that saying that kind of thing to a librarian means you’re cruising for a bruising two-hour explanation of all the different ways in which a library serves its community above and beyond print materials (which, quite frankly, aren’t going anywhere). After preventing the person from adequately finishing their salad, soup, or main course, they would eventually have to admit ignorance just to keep the crazy librarian lady next to them quiet.
Even so, the perception continues to exist that all we ever do is circulate books. That’s a cute notion. Very 1950s. But in 2019 it’s just not very practical. Libraries are constantly trying to find new ways to become invaluable to the public. Case in point, The Memory Cafés and the new Dementia Resource Center.
As seen in a recent press release, “People with dementia and their care partners are important stakeholders in the Evanston community. The Library offers them a dedicated program and resources to broaden their opportunities for fun and education.” What does that look like? Well, first we have our Memory Cafés, which began in September 2018, take place on the third Saturday of each month from 1:00 to 3:00 pm in the Falcon Room. Memory Cafés bring in art and service programs to provide enrichment activities for people living with dementia and build community and provide support for their care partners. The events are social, fun, and offer equalizing opportunities to engage in art, dance, or music, among other activities.
Because dementia can be such an isolating illness, the library then set out to secure new funding to expand our offerings for its patrons living with dementia and their care partners. That’s why we’ve also created the Dementia Resource Center. Housed next to the Falcon Room on the third floor of the Main Library, 1703 Orrington, in this collection patrons will find books on the subject of Alzheimer’s and dementia taken from the library’s collections. These books are marked with a purple dot to identify them and can be borrowed like other library books. New materials will be added regularly.
In addition, the Resource Center has take-home activity kits that can be checked out for a month at a time. These kits contain puzzles, games, and other mind and memory activities that encourage people on the different phases of the memory loss spectrum to interact with their care partners. The library encourages feedback on how these activities work for those who borrow them. Presently, the activity kits are available only to Evanston residents.
It’s a far cry from just handing out books but that’s the library for ya. Trying new things all the time.