Program Summary: The West Vancouver Memorial Library (WVML) opened on November 11, 1950 and has continued to expand ever since in response to the growing population and growing community needs of West Vancouver. The WVML is a vital organization for the community of West Vancouver as they provide a variety services and programs, and host numerous events, for people of all ages, including older adults. Their programs focus on music and music appreciation and education, local history, health, technology, English language learning, environment (eg. Climate Future), reconciliation with Indigenous people (eg. Honouring Reconciliation), multicultural engagement (eg. Shared Journeys) and more. These programs are attended by tens of thousands of adults every year, many of them seniors.
Several of WVML’s initiatives are particularly relevant to older adults and are targeted towards this group. These include:
- Online and phone based one-on-one tech support and group training for seniors; on everything from Zoom to excel to online security.
- The Take Home Tech program: Through a partnership between North Shore libraries and Telus, 400 tablets and cell phones were distributed across the North Shore to clients who could benefit most, as identified by the local network of non-profit agencies.
- Delivery of books and audiobooks to seniors with mobility challenges and other disabilities and transportation to the library for a special book club for these seniors.
- Lending of dementia-friendly players that play music to aid memory, and sensory memory kits
- Various social programming offered online, including:
- Virtual visits to outdoor locations
- Newcomer and EAL supports, from collections to multilingual staff, to English conversation, to first language programming
- Other general library programs such as literary, cooking chats, gardening, estate planning, climate science, and more.
Many of WVML’s programs focus on skills development, resilience, and confidence, and promote active participation and social interaction for participants. Their programs help older adults preserve their memories, tell their stories, express themselves, explore new technologies, share knowledge, and engage in a collaborative and creative experience.
Strengths: The services planned and provided by the WVML are informed by community conversations and needs assessments, as part of their strategic plan’s consultation framework. These consultations identify emerging service delivery needs of their community on an ongoing basis. The Library partners with many local organizations to provide services and programs for seniors. This includes local groups such as the West Vancouver Foundation, West Vancouver Historical Society, the Royal Canadian Legion, and North Shore Multicultural Society. Earlier this year when the building closed due to COVID, the Library partnered with the Seniors’ Activity Centre to deliver books and other library materials to homebound seniors.
Focusing on programs which offer a social component is particularly important for the Library as many seniors in their community live alone. Many of the programs described provide opportunities for interaction and connection with WVML staff and other seniors. Finally, WVML designs their programs to be robust. Lectures, on a diversity of topics – climate change, gardening, music -- are presented by informed, respected experts. And educational and cultural programs such as language learning, book clubs, and technology clinics, are relatively small and offer participants an interactive learning experience.
Challenges: Working with care homes and connecting with those that live in them has been an ongoing priority for WVML, nonetheless, this is one area in which they hope to increase their level of engagement. During the COVID-19 pandemic, the loss of in-person programs, reductions of library hours, and lack of seating in the building has been a hardship for seniors who rely on the Library as a social hub. Although the Library is offering virtual programs not everyone is able to participate as these programs require an internet connection, computer and/or smart device.
Program Impact: WVML programming has been a source of support for many in the community, including older adults. Heart-warming stories have come from the Take Home tech program as people who were truly stuck and unable to connect with family, friends, and supports were assisted when their need was greatest. In response to the Library’s one-on-one tech training, one patron said, “You’re like my computer daughter”.
Families of people living in care homes have also reached out with their appreciation. One message came from a woman who's 103-year-old father is in a care home in West Van: "I want to say how much my Dad has really enjoyed the library services extended to him over the past years. And, I wanted to let you know how we have really appreciated your efforts to continue providing books during the Covid lock down. With strict visiting restrictions at these residential care facilities, the regular delivery of books has made a huge difference to those who have been socially isolated for the past nine months. Thank you so very much for continuing this service!"
Adaptions to program due to COVID-19: When the COVID-19 pandemic started, the WVML was one of the first libraries in Canada to transition all programs to virtual and WVML staff provided advice and support on this transition to libraries across the country. WVML staff continue to provide ongoing information, referral, and tech training, while maintaining their physical and online collections.
Throughout the pandemic, WVML’s biggest concerns for seniors has been mental health and isolation. They have responded to this concern by working on fresh ways to connect seniors and keep their minds active: discussion groups have been moved online to continue to give people an opportunity to discuss current events, and the Library hopes to introduce phone-in programs in 2021 for people who don’t have an internet connection.
For more information about the West Vancouver Memorial Library, click here.