LIS 7380 Transforming Adult Services

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Course Description

An introduction to issues and practices related to adult services, with particular emphasis on the impacts of aging on society, information seeking of older adults, teaching and advocacy for older adults, and engaging older adult volunteers. A major component of the course is service learning – active, engaged learning integrated with socially responsible practice. Students collaborate with a library, residential center, or other community organization to create a project or service to benefit older adults. Students will use research skills in an evidence-based assessment of their work in the service-learning project. 3 credits. Prerequisites: LIS 7010, 7040 or by permission of the instructor.

Phase 1: Fall 2012 Needs Assessment

From September to December 2012, the first class of students launched the older adults service-learning project with Anoka County Library (ACL) through doing an assessment of older adults' needs related to information and computer technology. ACL administrators and staff had identified a needs assessment as the necessary first step toward improving current library services to older adults. The final report, Older Adult Services at Anoka County Library, Report of Phase 1: Needs Assessment 2012, documents key findings and presents recommendations for services that can be developed by future collaborations between MLIS students and ACL (download this report as PDF). 

This was a successful and meaningful experience for all involved. It was an opportunity to use our knowledge and skills to benefit the library and the community that produced results that might not otherwise be possible without this collaboration. For one student, the hands-on experience performing a needs assessment and producing materials to support findings was a unique opportunity as a student. Other students valued the opportunity to gain first-hand experience with community engagement (reaching out to agencies, organizations, and individuals), to learn about demographic shifts and implications for future services, and for time to reflect on aspects of growing older related to libraries and our personal lives. 

Phase 2: Fall 2013 Volunteer Training

From September to December 2013, the second class of students built on findings of Phase 1 of the service learning project, guided by the recommendations of the Fall 2012 class and ACL priorities. Having identified a need for clear and available training materials to prepare and recruit volunteer computer coaches to train older adults in computer use, the students developed a training toolkit for use by the staff and volunteer computer coaches at ACL. The project deliverables included: (1) a curriculum outline that can be used to lead a training session when orienting new volunteer computer coaches; (2) tips for computer coaches on best practices for teaching and working with older adults; (3) conceptualization aids that provide a means of understanding and explaining common computer concepts often difficult for new computer users to grasp; (4) additional resource guides to aid coaches with challenging subjects, such as Internet safety and troubleshooting; and (5) online spaces for computer coach community support. The final report, Older Adult Services at Anoka County Library, Report of Phase 2: Volunteer Training 2013, documents key findings and presents recommendations for services that can be developed by future collaborations between MLIS students and ACL (download this report as PDF).

Again, this was a very rewarding experience for students in diverse ways - "a sense of accomplishment and pride from the amazing things we managed to deliver to ACL", "some project management tools that will be extremely helpful as I move forward into larger and larger projects both in the remainder of my time at St. Kate's and in my professional life", "knowledge of older adults and their use of technology and experience studying and discussing surrounding issues", and "a better understanding of the needs of older adults, effective tips and techniques for instructing them, and some experience partnering with a public library to develop a program" (anonymous responses to a final questionnaire). The Anoka County Library staff and Board were appreciative of the accomplishments - tools, resources, and information to help the project move forward.

Phase 3: Fall 2014

Preliminary planning for Phase 3 is in progress.

Course Websites

Fall 2012: PBworks

Fall 2013: PBworks

Course Resources