Libraries have changed with the times. While the facilities and services now available are intended for all ages, they can contribute significantly to the quality of life for the elderly.
Traditional services remain. Books in all fields and categories can be taken out on loan; current
Periodicals can be found on the magazine racks, and daily newspapers are available. One can ask the librarian just about anything on just about any subject and get help in finding pertinent material.
But there is more. The monthly calendar published by public library systems in Montgomery and Prince George's counties and distributed to all neighborhood branch libraries contains an extensive listing of scheduled events and activities.
A sampling from recent calendars includes book review and discussion sessions on such books as "Passages" by Gail Sheehy and "Roots" by Alex Haley, seminar-workshops on crafts, a panel discussion on buying or selling a house and a short course on tracing family history. Films for all ages are scheduled regularly. All of these programs are offered without charge.
Libraries traditionally provide a quiet setting, but newer facilities have pleasing and comfortable surroundings as well. Long Branch in Montgomery County, for example, has a modern high-ceilinged building that is light and airy and furnished with colorful, comfortable chairs. It is possible to relax in one of the phonograph listening stations to enjoy a recording or select records to take home. Seniors who prefer a quiet, unhurried visit will find morning or early afternoon hours best.
The Hyattsville branch of the Prince George's County Memorial Library lends reproductions of famous paintings and records of all types, including rock as well as classical music. Here one also can find a microfilm collection with viewers to examine, for example, issues of the New York Times as far back as 1917.
One morning recently, about five persons were using the periodical section, which has hundreds of magazines of newspapers, some in foreign languages. In the general reading room a dozen or so adults were reading or searching for specific titles.One older man was examining the latest financial reports in the business alcove.
One older couple, Mr. and Mrs. Harold Symes of College Park, searched through back issues of newspapers for an advertisement they remembered but had misplaced. Their quest was successful.
"It is a shame," said Symes, "how few older people use the library. One can learn so much here, and the staff is so helpful."
One of the newer services of special interest to seniors is the growing collection of attractive and well-printed large-type books available in all categories, including best sellers.
Area library systems also offer special services to homebound or handicapped persons.
Homebound county residents can get library materials delivered to their homes. Much of this service is provided by volunteers and is coordinated by the special services division of the library system.
Books and bulletins in Braille are available in increasing numbers and a wide range of subjects. Increasingly popular are "talking books" for persons with limited sight or other handicaps that make reading difficult or impossible. Many of these "books" are supplied by the Library of Congress, which also lends playing equipment to eligible users. County libraries coordinate and supplement this service. Once an arrangement is established, a user can receive and return talking books by mail.
Equipment used for talking books - machines for disc and cassette - is simple to operate. It can be controlled for replay when desired. Like most library services, this services is provided without charge.
Other services are available through the public library system, but not all services are available at every neighborhood branch. For complete information, call the administrative offices during daytime hours. In Montgomery County the number is 279-1401. In Price George's County the number is 699-3500.