Library seeks Arbutus seniors' feedback on expanding services

Baltimore County Public Library representatives visited the Arbutus Senior Center Jan. 17 to discuss ways to expand and improve library services offered to seniors.

Four seniors attended the 11.a.m. session, the first of two scheduled to be held at the facility of Sulphur Spring Road.

The most popular suggestion was a request for more classes so seniors can learn how to use computers and other forms of technology, including e-readers and tablets.

"Seniors are getting e-readers as presents, and then they're coming into the library and looking for instruction," said Justin Hartzell, one of two BCPL representatives present.

However, most of the Arbutus members said they prefer to keep the paper copies of their books.

"There's just something about having a book, I guess it's an age thing," said Dottie Fleming, a 68-year-old Arbutus resident and member of the senior center.

They would like to see more events, such as lecturers and book signings, hosted by the library.

Arbutus Senior Center Director Susan Patry agreed. Patry mentioned that she'd like to see a program currently being run at another library moved to Arbutus as well.

"Another thing that I've seen published in the Baltimore County Library newsletter is something similar to what Pikesville library does, they have kind of a monthly lecture series, I think that is great," Patry said.

Patry also said that a lot of seniors are wary of learning about technology because they don't know the wide range of uses that cell phones and computers offer.

She said courses to demonstrate the advantages those devices offer would be popular.

"They may not realize the impact of having this one thing that can do everything," Patry said.

Requests for visits from animals with programs such as Karma Dogs or to cooperate with the local fire departments to plan events for their grandchildren were also mentioned.

In addition to Arbutus, the library system is surveying members of the county's Pikesville Senior Center and Bykota Senior Center in Towson, as well as residents of the Oak Crest retirement community in Parkville, a community similar to the Charlestown retirement community on Maiden Choice Lane.

Feedback from those forums and information from library systems in other counties on the programs they offer will be used to help the Baltimore County system decide how to expand its services, according the representatives at last week's meeting in Arbutus.

They said the project is going to take a few months, with a report expected to be published in June.

"Seniors are an important and growing demographic in Baltimore County," according to a an email from James Cooke, planning and projects manager for the library system.

"Residents over age 65 now make up about 14.5 percnt of the county's population, while those 55 and over make up 26 percent of the county's population. These are the highest percentages in the state and higher than the national average," he wrote.

The library system is conducting the poll as part of its ongoing efforts to to identify efficient services for county residents, he wrote, and to support its goal to provide residents with "the resources they need to explore topics of personal interest and continue to learn throughout their lives."

Cooke wrote that among the library's present services for county residents age 55 and over are:

• Computer, genealogy and social networking classes

• Branch Book Clubs and Meet the Author events

• Assistive and adaptive computer technology

• Book talks and resource sharing with senior centers

• Volunteer opportunities

• Intergenerational story times, programs and activities

• Homework help for grandparents raising grandchildren

• Large type materials, including a hot titles list for large type

• Targeted magazines (AARP, Reminisce, Large Type Reader's Digest)

The Arbutus Senior Center was chosen because it is next door to the Arbutus Library and seniors there regularly use the library, Cooke wrote.

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