Librarian Penny Felders loves matching aged care residents with the perfect read, she tells Darragh O’Keeffe.
Three days a week, for the past 30 years, librarian Penny Felders has been helping residents of SwanCare Bentley Park find just the right book they’re looking for.
“We have a consistent bunch of regulars and I love that the library has become something of a social hub,” says Felders.
For many of the residents who are avid readers, the library is “their second home,” she says.
Back in 1987 Felders was completing her library technician course when a friend told her about an advertisement for a librarian position at Bentley Park, which has both a retirement village and aged care facility.
“It was perfect for me because it was part time and I was still studying. I never knew I’d stay this long, but I love it here,” she tells Australian Ageing Agenda.
Ms Felders recalls bringing her young children with her to the library back in the early days. “As they grew older they went to day care and would spend less holiday time with me at work.”
Since its humble beginnings in a small room, the library has evolved significantly during Felder’s tenure, effectively doubling in size. It now boasts more than 4,500 books.
Felders says that moving to a digital system has been the biggest change she witnessed.
“When I started we were using the Browne system, which had little cards and envelopes in the front of the books. But cards would go missing; sometimes it was messy!”
The first computer was installed in the library in the early 1990s and since then Felders, and her small band of volunteers, have never looked back.
“Today we use the digital Amlib system and operate as a branch of the local library.”
This connection to another library has proved highly beneficial, as it has expanded the titles available to residents.
“I spend a lot of my time on inter-library lines because we’re part of the Vic Park library and they provide us with books to help our collection. We get people putting in requests for books. If we don’t have it I’ll do some research and check where it is and when it’s available.”
While books provide residents with the opportunity for quiet as well as solitary escapism, the library has also become a meeting place for many visitors.
“A lot of our regulars get to know other residents, and they say they really appreciate that social element.”
The latest development is the growing use of e-readers, Felders says. “I encourage readers to bring their tablets into the library so I can teach them how to download the e-books and use the online resources.”
“Some have had trouble turning the pages and so have gone back to hard books, but for others, especially those with vision problems, they’re an advantage because you can adjust the print size.”
Felders is passionate about the difference a library can make to the lives of older people in retirement living and aged care.
“It’s a great place for bringing people together, of all ages, and it helps alleviate loneliness.
“Sometimes it spins off into having book clubs, where they can talk about the books they’ve read at the library. I have found I’ve gotten to know a lot of them very well, like a family.”
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