Loneliness and social isolation are rampant in America, according to many experts. The Center for Disease Control calls loneliness an epidemic, and says it has a higher morbidity rate than obesity (about the same as smoking two packs of cigarettes a day). Studies have shown that loneliness cuts across all age, social, race, and economic demographics. We have tons of virtual friends, but few in reality. The Oceanside Library has attacked this problem in two ways: directly & indirectly. Directly we have created a number of programs which put people face-to-face. We show TED videos, followed by an open discussion. We have a dine around series, where we make a reservation at a local restaurant, patrons sign up through us, and then meet and dine with 8 or 10 others, breaking bread and talking with people they did not know before. We have teamed up with a local woodworking group and a crafters circle, offering opportunities for people to enjoy a hobby—and conversation. We have a program for 20-somethings we hold at a local bar. We provide social time for adults with special needs, and game days for our canasta, mahjong, scrabble, and chess players. And that is just a few of the many programs we have, and are planning. Indirectly, we are tweaking many of our face-front programs (lectures, concerts, movies) so that they are also more interactive. For instance, we will ask a crowd waiting for a lecture, “what was your first car?” or “who was your favorite actress growing up?”. The questions gets the patrons talking among themselves, making the experience informative, but also social. None of these programs require much in the way of a financial burden on the Library (we do roll out a cart with a Keurig for coffee & tea); in fact, almost all are free to us. Libraries, as perhaps the only institution left in America that works, have the ability, and perhaps the obligation, to take action against the problem of loneliness. The lonely are, to a great degree, the unknown underserved population.
Presenter: Tony Iovino, Assistant Director for Community Services, Oceanside Library
A certificate for 2 Professional Development Hours (.2 CEU's) will be emailed after the workshop.