Last month, Eric Head, who manages our Citrus County Libraries, was named Leader of the Year by the Florida Libraries Association. This is a distinction that I believe Mr. Head and his team richly deserved, based solely on what they have provided for our estimated 13,000 families living with dementia.
For five years, the Citrus County Libraries have required dementia education and awareness as part of their staff customer service training. They require this training annually to all who work in the system. They’ve told me, “This training provides understanding and techniques that we find helpful with all of our senior patrons; not just those living with dementia.”
The libraries have also provided classroom space for free ABC of Dementia workshops aimed at the needs of dementia care partners and families. This has gone on for several years, but over the last two years they have provided space for a workshop every month! This has been priceless during COVID when many other venues chose to close their doors.
The libraries have also generously provided space to display the Famous Americans Dementia Education Photo Exhibit, which is co-managed by my company and the nonprofit Dementia Education Inc. As a result, more than 400,000 library visitors have had an opportunity to learn about Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia.
Two years ago, COVID required that I cancel my in-person care partner support groups and go virtual. This has worked out well for me, but what about care partners who do not have access to their own computers? Our libraries addressed this question, creating a program called the Citrus County Libraries Coping Connection through which individuals can go to the library twice a month and link in with our support groups via Zoom. Like everything else they do, it’s free.
This kind of creative response to a community need is what our libraries are so good at. Another example was announced recently. Through a grant provided by Dementia Education Inc., our library system has created Compassionate Care Kits that patrons can check out to provide activity and enjoyment for their loved ones living with dementia. These kits became available in the middle of June. And the users get to keep some of the components of the kits, including books and information about resources.
This is what our libraries have done for just one segment of our population. They have certainly done as much for others. Prestigious awards like that recently presented to Mr. Head are not just “given;” they are “earned.”
And while I usually end my columns with my slogan, “We all deserve the best,” in this case I will say in respect to our Citrus libraries, “We all have the best!”
Until next time remember: “We all deserve the Best”
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