Saturday, July 7, 2007

Baby boomers merit attention
Home News Tribune Online 07/6/07

The folks who run the Old Bridge Public Library have figured out that for their services to stay current they need to take a step backward — or, to be more specific, they must cater more aggressively to those patrons who were born between 1946 and 1964, the generation widely known as the baby boomers, who started turning 60 last year. It's a winning strategy.

Boomers number approximately 78.2 million Americans. About 7,918 of them — or 330 an hour — turn 60 every day. They are well-educated and by and large well-off. And they do one other thing that some members of younger demographic groups do not: They read — voraciously.

In Old Bridge, that will translate into a new pilot program at the library called Senior Spaces, a change in philosophy and offerings, according to library Director Allan M. Kleiman, designed to accommodate the needs, interests and concerns of this dynamic and prolific group. Smart move.

What's in the offing? To start with, cushy chairs (to ease all of those aging sacroiliacs); a "bookshop" with materials tilted toward the interests of older readers; "the front porch," with furniture and fixtures tailored to encourage sitting and conversation; a listening area featuring television, DVDs and phonograph, and a special-needs space for the visually or hearing impaired.

The New Jersey State Library is helping fund the project with a $10,000 grant, partly because Senior Spaces can serve as a model for other libraries.

No doubt it will.

"Serving the needs of older residents as the population of New Jersey ages," said State Librarian Norma E. Blake, "is one of the ways in which we can help libraries to meet the challenges of the future."

A future that is already here. Great job.

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