Library is connecting with seniors to make access easier and days brighter

The Estevan Public Library has started a new adult program called Friendly Voice Phone Calls.

The program is developed for seniors in the Estevan community who have been reducing their contacts due to the pandemic and would like to hear a friendly voice.

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Library children and adult program co-ordinator Christine Batke said she saw other libraries doing something similar and decided to bring this opportunity to the Estevan area.

"I noticed that there were other libraries that were doing calls to seniors as well, and it seemed to be going off pretty well in these areas. And these were libraries primarily in America that were doing it that I was inspired by. But I also was inspired by just the (spring) lockdown in Estevan and how it would affect a lot of people with isolating," explained Batke.

The program requires registration, and people who put their names in for a phone call will receive such from the library once a month. The program co-ordinator will call the seniors to check-in, chat, update them on library services, offer assistance with technology and more.

"I wanted to make sure that we are still reaching out to those who are a little bit older in our community and make sure that they still are getting the contact that they need, the assistance that they need," Batke said.

She added that they already offer tech services to help people utilize library resources online, but sometimes patrons need more than that.

"It was just making it more versatile for people who are self-isolating."

Over the phone, the library staff provides information about their services and programs, some of which are delivered through platforms that allow for socialization and communication in the community, including Facebook and Zoom.

"It's just here for you, for what you need. These are services that we provide, but if you need tech service then we are here for that. If you want to know what's happening in the library, what's changing then we are here for that. If you want to tell us about a new recipe that you've tried, that you are inspired by, then we are also here to communicate about that and maybe we can find a way to integrate it into a program."

If the demand is there, Batke said the program may evolve as they go providing the needed services and connecting with seniors.

The first Friendly Voices took place on Nov. 6. Since it's a new program, so far Batke is trying to get the word out there and let people know about the new opportunity. She is currently spreading the information through seniors’ homes so that people who are not tech-friendly could participate if they choose to.

Batke hopes that once people know about the new option they will get more traction and grow the program. Currently, the program co-ordinator is the one who does the calls, but when it gets bigger they may need to seek some help from community volunteers.

"Ideally I would like to see this being a very popular program, as with all of our programs … If it reaches past our capacity I have had people … outside the library who are not seniors but who are interested in maintaining that kind of connection and may be able to volunteer their services and assist with that. And then you are building a mutual relationship within our community."

Batke doesn't want to set a time limit per call because she is trying to keep it informal to better serve the individual needs of patrons. Currently, the library works mainly with Estevan and area residents, but if they see the demand in other places in the southeast, they hope other libraries may consider starting the program as well.

The next Friendly Voices Phone Calls are slated for Dec. 18. To register themselves or their loved ones, people can call the library at 306-636-1620 and leave the number for which they would like to receive a phone call.

Batke added that if people are not sure what kind of help they need, they can first talk to the manager or one of the program co-ordinators for more information. 

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