Seniors Commissioner Mansour with Campaspe Library team

Libraries change lives

Jenny Mustey, Library Services Manager at Campaspe Regional Library at Echuca, is a passionate believer that libraries change lives.

Every day, Jenny sees the impact her library has on its users. Most recently, Campaspe was a pilot site for Social Seniors, a hands-on program that showed participants how to get involved in social networking, such as by joining Facebook groups.

‘We've had such great feedback ... they walk away feeling very confident, very supported and they really want to learn more. A number of the participants have continued to meet and support each other to do more technology-related things,’ Jenny says.

Social connection

‘Quite a few said, “I could never believe our phone could do more than make a call and now I'm connecting with my family on Facebook, I'm Face Timing my friends and I’m connecting with my grandkids overseas”. It was quite a bit of a game changer for quite a few of them.’

Public libraries in Victoria receive more than 30 million visitors each year – the equivalent of five visits per Victorian. A large proportion of those visits are about social connection rather than borrowing or returning books, Jenny says.

‘Even if there's not something on, it's just a great place to be, to come and have a coffee, read the paper, check your email, whatever you want to do.’

Making new friends

‘I was speaking to a patron the other day who said she was ready to join our film group that meets once a month. She said, “it's time for me to start making some new friends after a bit of tough time over the last 12 months”.’

For those who can’t make the trip to the library, most councils offer an outreach program. Campaspe has Books on wheels, which takes books, DVDs and magazines to those who are home based.

‘We also have a Words on wheels program, which is delivered at every aged care facility right across the shire. It’s like a senior story-telling program that’s bringing the residents together to talk and listen to stories and poems and share their own experiences.’

Leveraging accessibility

Recognising the possibilities the accessibility of its libraries present, Moonee Valley Council has broadened its scope to include improving the physical, and social, health of its community. Moonee Valley’s libraries run regular exercise and health education classes and the council’s state-of-the-art Avondale Heights Library even offers a boutique gym.

Mayor Cr Narelle Sharpe says, ‘Some older people might not feel comfortable attending a gym while libraries are a welcoming space for everyone and are already well attended by diverse groups of older people.’

Successful exercise

The success of the library gym and fitness initiative is obvious, with 15 per cent of participants reporting it has led to them exercising for the first time.

‘Other innovative programs we’re running at our libraries that have been well received by our older community include our Food for Fines program, where Moonee Valley residents can wipe out their library fines by donating canned goods and other non-perishables to help people in need,’ Cr Sharpe says.

Seniors can also access assistance to apply online for the Seniors Card – or to update their details – at their local library.