MLA Conference Presentation 2013

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Finding the Fires that Burn Within: A Community-Based Framework for Developing Older Adult Services

Invited presentation by Joyce Yukawa, Associate Professor, St. Catherine University MLIS Program. Part of the Talkin’ ‘Bout My Generation Mini-conference of the Minnesota Library Association 2013 Annual Conference, October 11, 2013, St. Cloud, Minnesota.
Abstract: The older adult population in the U.S. is highly diverse in its characteristics, interests, needs, and perspectives on the future. With the prospect of rapid increases in this population in the decades to come, libraries are planning and implementing a wide range of services that address work, health and wellness, financial planning, information technology, lifelong learning, and community connections. This workshop explores a community-based framework for developing older adult services that leverages community strengths, identifies key sustainability factors, and builds a learning environment that supports services to inform, inspire, and engage older adults as they strive to live fulfilling, productive, and independent lives.

PowerPoint presentation (download the PDF)

Vision of a Community Approach

  1. Talented, skilled, passionate Baby Boomer volunteers serve the library’s mission.
  2. Volunteer-staff teams make a measurable difference in meeting community needs.
  3. Learning through collaboration strengthens and inspires volunteers and staff and builds sustainability.

Principles of a Community Approach

  1. Be volunteer-centric and library-centric.
  2. Do good work.
  3. Build a learning community for capacity-building and sustainability.

Some libraries exemplifying this approach:

  • Mission Viejo Public Library (YouTube, 35:24) recruited an experienced event planner for their first annual Reader's Festival, involving 150 volunteers and 5,000 attendees. The library staff's professionalism and efficient use of the volunteer's time, their openness to advice and critical feedback, and their heartfelt gratitude earned the volunteer's enthusiasm, loyalty, and desire to recruit other volunteers for the library. 
  • Monrovia Public Library Volunteer Management Team (YouTube, 3:42) was the result of the library's change in philosophy of volunteering. The library decided to involve volunteers in every aspect of its strategic plan to further the library's mission. A critical step included connecting volunteers to the library's staff and goals. Several members of the VMT talk with library staff on a regular basis to understand the needs of the staff to further goals, increase programs, and increase resources (Strategies & Tips from the VMT, YouTube, 3:10).
  • St. Helena Public Library, Transforming Libraries (YouTube, 14:28) describes how St. Helena Public Library created an adult programs series in collaboration with volunteers and in the process, "transformed our library in terms of service, public perception, and processes." They have created a corps of volunteer leaders and a community of library advocates.
  • Volunteer Leaders - San Jose Public Library Partners in Reading (YouTube, 10:27) describes the emergence of volunteer leaders in the Partners in Reading program. Keys to success are letting go and trusting volunteers to use their talents and leadership skills.

Be volunteer-centric and library-centric.

  • Develop and promote a new vision of volunteering to further the library’s mission
  • Provide flexible, negotiable roles for volunteers
  • Inspire volunteers with the mission and the impact their work can have
  • Empower volunteers to give feedback, take initiative, recruit others

Do good work.

  • Make a measurable difference to the community
  • Plan, implement and be accountable as a volunteer-staff team 
  • Start small with well managed pilot projects
  • Use volunteer talents creatively
  • Appreciate volunteer work appropriately

Build a learning community.

  • Create an environment that:
    • Encourages open communication and feedback
    • Values diverse perspectives and contributions
    • Celebrates success
    • Supports risk-taking and learning from failure
  • Provide opportunities for:
    • Sharing expertise
    • Professional development
    • Taking leadership

Rewards: Capacity Building & Sustainability

  • Staff gains expertise from volunteers and are freed to use higher level skills.
  • Volunteers gain understanding of the library and how their skills can give benefit in that context.
  • The volunteer-staff team builds organizational capacity.
  • Committed volunteers provide momentum for future volunteer participation in mission-driven activities.
  • The library gains loyal, enthusiastic supporters who advocate for the library.
  • Lessons learned apply to volunteers of all ages. 

TLAF Training Videos and Resources

The Transforming Life After 50 (TLAF) initiative was launched by the California State Library to address the changing nature of aging, supported by the U.S. Institute of Museum and Library Services under the provisions of the Library Services and Technology Act. A related initiative, Get Involved: Powered By Your Library, is a California statewide initiative designed to expand the visibility and contributions of skilled volunteers through public libraries. Both TLAF and Get Involved provide a wealth of information and training materials for libraries wishing to transform their own services to older adults and work with Boomer volunteers.

TLAF Training Institutes

TLAF does training institutes that support library development of older adult projects and programs. TLAF's Tools for Engaging Midlife Adults provides learning modules and exercises for six areas: (1) Assessment & Evaluation, (2) Facilitation, (3) Funding, (4) Marketing, (5) Partnerships, (6) Programming, and (7) Volunteers. To date, 36 libraries in California have been awarded LSTA grants to put their learning into practice. 

The Volunteer Engagement Course, especially relevant to this presentation, includes 3 modules with readings, videos, and exercises: (1) Attracting and Engaging Volunteers; (2) Elements of a Successful Program; and (3) Overcoming Barriers, Future Trends. In response to one of the questions from the audience  about dealing with union issues, the reading for the third module is helpful: Dealing with Union Issues and Staff Resistance

Get Involved: Powered By Your Library Training Materials

Get Involved Resource Clearinghouse Training Materials is a searchable database of materials on topics of interest to library staff (e.g., national trends in skilled volunteerism) and volunteers (e.g., how to deliver training to library patrons in email basics).

The Get Involved: Powered By Your Library Training Institute provides practical tools and knowledge to help libraries expand their engagement with high-skilled volunteers. Here are selected videos from a recent training institute facilitated by JFFixler Group consultants (available from the Get Involved YouTube Channel):

  • Trends and issues. Imagine a world in which your library has all the resources it needs to serve more clients, deliver more programs, strengthen its staff, spread its message more widely, and increase its financial stability. These are the goals of a new vision of volunteer engagement.
  • Capacity building in volunteer engagement. Why and how to move from a management approach to volunteering to a new paradigm, the engagement approach.
  • New staff roles. Encourages librarians to rethink staff and volunteer roles and provides practical advice on how to change organically and incrementally while being mission focused. 
  • Position descriptions. The importance of position descirptions in structuring for innovation; types of flexible roles that volunteers can fill to meet their needs and the library's. 
  • Volunteer assessment and selection. Provides considerations and strategies for determining what types of volunteers are needed and how to select them through effective interviewing.
  • Volunteer performance management. Why and how to do a work plan that considers the library's vision,  resources, actions, yield, initial impact, and sustained outcomes. Why a work plan is a better measurement of accomplishment than a performance appraisal.
  • Panel on Effective Collaboraton with Unions and Library Staff discusses how to deal with staff and union resistance and get buy-in.  

Other Resources

  • AARP launched in 2013 Life Reimagined, a set of tools and experiences to guide people through midlife transitions. Life Reimagined for Work is powered by LinkedIn.
  • Corporation for National & Community Service. (2007). Keeping Baby Boomers volunteering: A research brief on volunteer retention and turnover. Washington, DC: CNCS. (download the PDF)
  • -  "Second acts for the greater good". Nonprofit movement to facilitate "encore careers" - jobs that combine personal meaning, continued income and social impact.
  • Fixler, J. F., Eichberg, S., & Lorenz, G. (2008). Boomer volunteer engagement: Collaborate today, thrive tomorrow. Bloomington, IN: AuthorHouse.
  • Lehn, C. (1999). Volunteer participation in California Libraries: "Best practices." Sacramento, CA: California State Libraries.
  • OASIS, a nonprofit founded in 1982, promotes successful aging through a three-fold approach: lifelong learning, healthy living and social engagement. Active in 43 cities across 25 states.
  • OATS (Older Adults Technology Services). Nonprofit provides training and support, online services, and community-building programs empower older adults to thrive as individuals and members of society through the use of technology. 
  • SHIFT, a Twin Cities nonprofit that seeks to be the community hub for midlifers as they navigate work/life transitions, connecting to resources, organizations and individuals that will guide members to lives of purpose and impact.