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Library grant to help bridge the gap between youth, seniors

Tualatin Public Library has received a $39,853 federal grant for a project that Manager Abigail Elder hopes will create a positive link between older and younger generations in the community.

Funded by the Library Services and Technology Act (LSTA), the grant is called 'Natural Resources: Mining the knowledge and talents of older adults' and aims to utilize skills of retired citizens in the community to teach young people.

Elder worked closely with the Juanita Pohl Center's former director, Paula Stewart, in drawing up the grant. The program is expected to roll out this spring and benefit both senior center users and library patrons.

'It's a competitive grant process, and it's a grant to fund new and innovative projects that can be replicated around the state,' Elder said. 'So it's a great honor to receive an LSTA grant. It's our third (LSTA) grant in three years, so I'm pretty proud of us.'

The Natural Resources project will utilize older adults as a community resource.

'Business executives, foresters, farmers, lawyers, doctors; but once you retire, people don't see that expertise anymore,' Elders said. 'So we're looking to connect people. Someone here at the library may ask me a question about beekeeping, and it would be great to say, 'I also know someone who knows about beekeeping in town.' How cool would it be to hook people up?'

The project will also provide opportunities for older adults to foster a love of books in children by reading together.

'It's good for (kids) to be exposed to people of all ages and types. There are just no opportunities in our society,' Elders explained.

The bulk of the grant will go toward paying for a new, 24-hour a week position at the library. This person will be tasked with overseeing all the pieces of the project and coordinating between the library and the Juanita Pohl Center. Elder said she hopes to hire that person sometime in March.

'There are lots of different pieces to the project,' she said. 'Some pieces might start right away, while others are going to have to wait a little longer. Part of it is finding what the greatest need is. We're working on an assessment of what the interests and needs of mid-life and older adults are.'

Elder said she is still seeking ideas for the project. Other ideas include an intergenerational book club, likely between a middle school class and a group at the senior center.

Elder said she has high hopes that the Natural Resources grant will inspire a shift in societal thinking, concerning intergenerational interaction.

'I think this particular grant, the way it's formulated, is really unique,' she said. 'I hope it just becomes the way we do business, that we don't think of intergenerational as anything special, and we can say, 'That's just always the way we've done it.''

In other grant news

The other two federal Library Services and Technology Act grants that the Tualatin Library received within the past few years are the Civic Engagement With Volunteers grant, and the Kit and Kaboodles grant.

  • The Civic Engagement grant pushed library employees to evaluate what works and what doesn't work within their volunteer program, training staff to work effectively with volunteers so that volunteer efforts are utilized in the most effective way possible.

    'When we started (the program), our retention rate was 30 percent, and at the end of it it was 75 percent,' Library Manager Johanna Elder said. 'People have lots of choices about how to spend their free time, and if they choose to stay with us, we must be doing something right.'

  • The Kit and Kaboodle program, provides literacy instruction and resources for child care providers. The library is in the process of assembling kits with one or two dozen books on a certain theme, and suggestions on how to use the books to make the most of story times.

    'In reality, story time is really introducing a lot of early literacy concepts,' Elder said. 'The fact that words are connected to pictures, and the piece that imagination plays, and even how a book works - you turn the page and there's another picture - all of those are literacy concepts. How to make a play time or a story time more of a learning opportunity is a sort of on-the-ground, basic thing that we never had the capacity to do, but the grant allowed us to do that.



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