Creative Aging in Our Communities: The Libraries ProjectOrganization Associated with Program
Lifetime Arts’ signature program, Creative Aging in Our Communities: The Libraries Project, supports collaborations between professional teaching artists and public libraries through the implementation of free instructional arts programs for older adults and capacity building programs for librarians and library administrators in New York State. Lifetime Arts provides incentive grants, professional development, and ongoing technical assistance—introducing libraries and public library systems to creative aging policies, best practices, and regional arts resources.
For older adults, professional teaching artists lead skill-building workshop series (in all disciplines), which foster mastery and promote meaningful social engagement, two key ingredients of positive aging. Participating librarians develop new skills in grant-writing, community partnership development, and arts programming. At each library, culminating events (free and open to the public) celebrate the achievements of every participant. Partners include the American Library Association Public Programs Office, Fordham University’s Ravazzin Center on Aging, and the Touchstone Center for Collaborative Inquiry.
Established in 2008, the Libraries Project was initially designed by Lifetime Arts to promote the emerging field of creative aging. Libraries, the most universal and democratic of America’s cultural institutions, are “age neutral” and appeal to older adults who are reluctant to go to age-specific venues such as senior centers. (Nationwide, 22% of library patrons are over 55 years old.) Libraries charge no admission or enrollment fees, and they reach people of all ages and all education levels. Now more than ever, they are becoming community cultural centers and venues for lifelong learning.
By the end of 2013, with funding from private foundations and the Institute for Museum and Library Services (IMLS), Lifetime Arts will work with 120 libraries in New York State—serving more than 1,800 older adults, employing over 100 artists, and training over 200 librarians.
Lifetime Arts conducts formative assessment throughout its projects. Through periodic site visits, Lifetime Arts observes the workshops in action and provides technical assistance to librarians and artists onsite. It responds to inquiries and requests for assistance from librarians, system administrators, and artists via telephone and email. This process (and ongoing review) yields valuable information about program design and implementation, capacity, and need. The feedback on all of the programs from older adult participants, arts partners, and librarians has been resoundingly positive.
Additionally, the Ravazzin Center on Aging at Fordham University evaluates the impact of New York City projects on the quality of life of older adults. The pilot evaluation showed higher morale and increased involvement in social activities. Current NYC programs will include focus groups looking at the impact of participation on older adults. The Touchstone Center for Collaborative Inquiry will assess the impact of the IMLS funded project on library practice in New York State.
Successful community partnerships require extensive planning and formative assessment. Teaching artists, librarians, and anyone serving older adults in community settings need training and access to technical assistance and program support. Program documentation is essential—take photographs, videotape workshops, and share the stories.