An exploration of public libraries as dementia friendly places

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Katie Bagnall


Dementia can be a lonely, stigmatising and isolating illness. People living with dementia and their carers want to remain connected with their local communities and feel safe, welcome and valued. A growing community awareness of dementia has borne the concept of dementia friendliness and dementia friendly communities.
Core features of dementia friendly communities are supportive, inclusive, welcoming and safe environments. Public libraries are widely valued as safe, accessible and welcoming community assets and in this sense are well placed to be part of dementia friendly communities. This study has sought to understand how public
libraries contribute to Australian dementia friendly communities. A mixed methods approach with a sequential exploratory design was employed to answer two distinct questions: firstly, how are individual needs of patrons living with dementia and their carers being met; and second, is there alignment between dementia friendly public libraries and the ALIA Framework for Australian Public Libraries. From a review of international and Australian literature, features of dementia friendly public libraries were codified along two facets—services and enabling environments.

This study found that dementia friendly public libraries offered a suite of services and enabling environments that benefit people living with dementia and their carers. Collectively, they enable social capital and contribute to personal development and wellbeing, informed and connected citizens, and ultimately stronger more inclusive communities—achieving five of the six ALIA outcome measures. Public libraries located in dementia friendly communities provided similar benefits, although some inconsistencies were evident with a shift to age-friendliness. Dementia friendliness is a reflective movement and public libraries in dementia friendly communities must continue to respond to the needs of that community. There was an absence of strategic planning by the public libraries assessed to provide for such need, and thus targeted, collaborative planning could be considered to enhance dementia friendliness and inclusivity.

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