The IMLS Western Regional Fellowship: Transforming Life After 50 (TLA50) was offered as a collaborative effort of the California State Library, Idaho Commission for Libraries, Oregon State Library, and Washington State Library in partnership with the Pacific Library Partnership and is a national continuing education model. It was funded by a grant from the U.S. Institute for Museum and Library Services, Laura Bush 21st Century Librarian Program with additional support from the participating State Libraries.
The year-long Fellowship provided a continuing education scholarship for public library staff and library professionals to advance their library and information science skills related to improving services to and engagement with active, older adults. Fellows were introduced to a new framework for working with “Baby Boomers” and other older adults that promotes productive aging. The Fellowship was based on the recognition that current “senior” library services often do not reflect the character or interests of today’s “Boomer” generation nor do they effectively position public libraries as resources to help older adults remain vital and contributing members of their communities as they age. The Fellowship explored creative strategies for effectively serving and engaging mid-life adults while also establishing public libraries as centers of lifelong learning and civic engagement.
The Fellowship focused on three primary areas: (1) concepts and research underlying new approaches to working with mid-life adults; (2) promising practices in public library services; and (3) leadership skills in community librarianship – including partnership development, assessment strategies, outreach and facilitation, and using social media.
Ninety-six qualified public library staff from California, Idaho, Oregon, Washington, and 8 other states, were selected to participate as Fellows, learning from each other and current leaders and futurists in the fields of aging, health, social sciences, economics, lifelong learning, work, and civic engagement. Fellows also benefited from the experience of public library leaders who had already implemented Transforming Life After 50 approaches in their local libraries. From July 1, 2010 through June 30, 2011, the Fellowship included:
- Enrollment and participation in the TLA50 Ning online community
- An introductory 1-hour webinar
- In-person training institute in Portland, Oregon, September 15-17, 2010
- Nine-month online learning curriculum in building skills and applying lessons learned (Required 4-6 hours of self-paced participation per month)
- Completion of 3 online surveys over the course of the Fellowship
The Fellowship was based on the principle of “action learning,” in which the acquired skills and knowledge were expected to be put to practical use at public libraries over a sustained period of time. Also at the heart of this year-long Fellowship was a genuine conviction about the empowering value of cooperative learning between and among peers.