By Suzanne Flint, California State Library Recognizing that many current adult and senior library services do not reflect the character or interests of today’s “boomer” generation, the IMLS Western Regional Fellowship: Transforming Life After 50 (TLA50) helps to effectively position public libraries as a resource that can help adults (ages 50+) remain vital and contributing members of their communities. Recently, 80 library professionals from twelve states completed the year-long fellowship, a collaborative effort of the California State Library, Idaho Commission for Libraries, Oregon State Library, and Washington State Library in partnership with the Peninsula Library System. It was funded by a grant from the U.S. Institute for Museum and Library Services, Laura Bush 21st Century Librarian Program, with additional support from the participating State Libraries.
The Fellowship provided continuing education scholarships for library professionals to advance their library and information science skills related to improving services to and engagement with active, older adults. Fellows were introduced to a new framework for working with “baby boomers” and midlife adults ages 50+ that promotes productive aging, lifelong learning, and civic engagement. The Fellowship has concluded and the entire curriculum – including two webinars, podcasts of the major speakers at a 3-day training institute, and course materials from 6 online courses – has been archived and is available free to anyone on the TLA50 website. Partnering states are continuing to support their TLA50 Fellows by providing grant opportunities, offering statewide forums to share lessons learned, and developing strategic initiatives to address the aging demographics in their states. Several Fellows have given TLA50 presentations at their regional and state library association conferences. A panel of Fellows led by the Fellowship’s co-designers Suzanne Flint (California State Library) and Stephen Ristau (project consultant) will also be presenting at PLA in March 2012.
The words of one Fellow reflect the success of this learning experience: “I wanted to share how much of an impact the Fellowship has had on my thinking about library services…nary a week goes by where I am not drawing on some of the knowledge I gained. Whether it is a sense of understanding our seniors better and their need for brain challenges to keep those neurons firing, or our Baby Boomers emerging as a dynamic new cohort with a different set of needs, or a new-found appreciation for the multi-diversity of midlife adults, being part of this Fellowship has added tremendously to the perspective I bring to my work each day.” For more information, visit the Transforming Life After 50 website and join the conversation on Facebook. Inquiries about bringing TLA50 to your state or community can be directed to Stephen Ristau (firstname.lastname@example.org) or Suzanne Flint (email@example.com).