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Public Library Spotlight: Glenna Godinsky, Life Enrichment Liaison, Gail Borden Public Library District, Elgin, IL

Posted by on January 30th, 2018 Posted in: Public Libraries, Public Libraries Spotlight
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photo of Glenna GodinskyName: Glenna Godinsky

Title: Life Enrichment Liaison, Gail Borden Public Library District, Elgin, IL

Education: B.A., University of Iowa, Certified Dementia Practitioner, National Council of Certified Dementia Practitioners

How did you become interested in focusing on Health and Wellness?

Like many, I was a caregiver as each of my parents faced different health struggles. My mom had Lewy Body Dementia and lived with my husband, our 2 teenage boys, our pre-teen daughter, and me during the last 4 years of her life. We became versed on bed alarms, door alarms, the concept of sundowning (when nights turn to days), the drive to wander, repeated questions and anxiety, hallucinations, and confusion – not only as a result of my mom’s disease, but also in ourselves, as caregivers who struggled to find a place to turn for support.

In applying for and accepting the professional role of Life Enrichment Liaison at Gail Borden Public Library District (GBPLD), I hoped to be able to make a difference in the lives of seniors living with dementia as well as their caregivers. Compassion for the situation followed by uplifting library programming that brings a level of normalcy and empowerment is my goal during each patron interaction.

Why is health literacy important in your community?

As 10,000 people turn age 65 each day, (www.thefiscalstimes.com) and with the knowledge that dementia is an age-related health issue (48% of those age 85+ showed some signs of dementia in the 2004 JAMA study by Langa, K.M, Foster, N.L. & Larson, E.B.) caregivers, as well as those living with dementia, need resources to help manage many of the everyday situations that had previously been so simple. How long is it safe for someone to drive? Is there an understanding customer service person to help when a customer becomes flustered or agitated? These are societal situations that have consequences for us all.

As library professionals, we have an opportunity and a responsibility to educate our residents by providing materials, virtual reference, services, and programs. The GBPLD is the largest library district in the State of Illinois for the population served.  Most of the library’s 150,000 patrons live in Elgin, a diverse ethnic and socio-economic population with many older adults below poverty level. The library’s 200+ staff work together with 600 volunteers and more than 200 community partners to deliver library services and programs.

What’s the impact that you hope to make in your community?

The role of the library has changed in the last 15 years. One of the facets libraries provide in our democratic country is a safe space for open discourse. We hope to take the lead in creating conversations on how we can best create a dementia-friendly community. We hope to lead by example by providing sustainable, quality library programs based in literacy, offering multiple forms of expression, for those living with dementia and for their caregivers. One of the GBPLD’s strategic plan priorities is the “Community Table: partnerships are forged to foster a healthy and democratic citizenry” with an objective, “Residents will be connected with community resources to promote physical, intellectual, and emotional wellbeing.”

What is your favorite health-related program or outreach that you’ve done? 

The GBPLD serves patrons in 20 locations throughout our 65-square mile district of over 150,000 patrons. On a monthly basis, teams of volunteers and staff present the Library Ladies programs which are theme-based and incorporate use of the arts – such as music, hands-on visual art projects, singing, and interactions involving the 5 senses –  to revisit popularly shared memories such as “The State Fair”, “Take Me to A Ball Game”, “Art History”, and “Cruise Ships to Subway Trips: Transportation in America”, to name a few.

Our Volunteers and staff also present, on a bi-monthly basis, the nationally-recognized, award-winning Tales and Travel Memories program where patrons “visit” a foreign country through books featuring colorful photography, informative captions and plenty of white space on the pages to alleviate confusion. In addition to reading aloud the 5 facts about the country, patrons also take turns reading paragraphs from a folktale. They pass around and discuss souvenirs such as dolls dressed in native attire, tactile refrigerator magnets of landmark buildings in the country, and the national flag. In November 2017, Tales and Travel Memories was among 15 organizations recognized by the Library of Congress and awarded for their implementation of best practices in literacy promotion and evidence-based research.

The results of such library programming have been proven to improve mood, increase social interaction and decrease the stigma of dementia. Participating in Library Ladies and Tales and Travel programs can be empowering to those who face dementia, and this is uplifting for their caregivers.

Glenna will be participating in our February Webinar: Tales & Travel Memories: Literacy-focused Programming for People with Dementia, a Kernel of Knowledge Webinar

Image of the author ABOUT Bobbi Newman
Bobbi's professional background includes work in public libraries. She currently serves as a member of the Office of Information Technology Policy (OITP) American Library Association (ALA) Advisory Committee. In the past, she has served as an ALA-Councilor-At-Large and on a variety ALA committees. In 2011 she was named a Mover and Shaker by Library Journal. She divides her time between her dog, reading fantasy and nonfiction, playing video games, and gardening.

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This project has been funded in whole or in part with Federal funds from the National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health, Department of Health and Human Services, under Grant Number 1UG4LM012346 with The University of Iowa.

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