Libraries: A valuable component of the Dementia Friendly Illinois initiative

As Illinois embarks on its journey to make the State dementia friendly, an important resource to include in the planning process is its public libraries.  Public libraries are respected institutions that can be found in nearly every town, village and city in the state.  No longer content to be mere warehouses for books, libraries are increasingly taking on inclusive projects as vital participants in their communities.

Libraries can make a valuable contribution to the Dementia Friendly Illinois initiative.  The Dementia Friendly America website includes a Library Sector Guide that outlines a wide variety of activities and resources available through libraries.  In addition to offering educational and informational programming about dementia to caregivers and the general public, libraries contain a wealth of materials that can be used to stimulate and engage people living with Alzheimer’s Disease and related dementias.

A growing number of Illinois libraries are already offering programs and services directly to this population.  Here are just a few of the things that libraries are doing:

  • Bringing programs to memory care facilities – for one example see Tales & Travel Memories at the Gail Borden Public Library, Elgin (check out the video of the program in action)
  • Hosting Memory Cafes – see Memory Lane Social at the Mokena Community Public Library District
  • Circulating memory kits – see the Forget Me Not Resource Center at the Effingham Public Library

Illinois libraries are banding together to share ideas and expertise in an effort to expand services to persons living with dementia.  Libraries belonging to the Reaching Across Illinois Library System (RAILS) in northern Illinois have formed a Serving Patrons with Dementia Group that meets quarterly and has a discussion listserv.  This idea has recently been shared with the Illinois Heartland Library System in hopes of involving libraries in the southern part of the state in this discussion.

There is also a national group of librarians who are passionately interested in serving people living with dementia and their care partners.  The Alzheimer’s and Related Dementias Interest Group (IGARD) is a part of the American Library Association.

As Illinois communities begin the process of becoming dementia friendly, an invitation to the local library to participate would be of benefit to all.  In addition to contacting the library director, ask to talk with the Outreach Librarian, who may already be involved in reaching out to this too often forgotten population.

Submitted by Mary Beth Riedner, Chair, Alzheimer’s and Related Dementias Interest Group/American Library Association

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