Supported wholeheartedly by Brooklyn Public Library’s (BPL) leadership, creative aging programming has become an integral part of the library’s offerings for their older adults. By leveraging pre-existing resources and infrastructure and dedicating support towards the programs, the Brooklyn Public Library has been offering creative aging programming successfully since 2011.
Reflecting their mission “to ensure the preservation and transmission of society’s knowledge, history and culture, and to provide the people of Brooklyn with free and open access to information for education, recreation and reference,” the Brooklyn Public Library recognized an opportunity to further serve the borough’s older adults through creative aging programming. But how could the library system institutionalize and sustain this model?
From the conception of implementing creative aging programming into core offerings, the BPL’s leadership fully backed the initial groundwork required to build programmatic infrastructure. With an eye towards sustainability, the team used pre-existing networks and talent to administer the programs. Building on the assets and the strong, committed librarian team in place, they tapped their Services for Older Adults Department to manage creative aging programming.
Services for Older Adults already had relationships with older adults and senior services organizations across the city because of their existing portfolio of non-arts programs. These connections and partnerships allowed them to mobilize creative aging programs quickly at both library branches and senior centers.
Additionally, because of an early pilot program funded by the Fan Fox and Leslie R. Samuels Foundation in 2011 and supported by Lifetime Arts, the library system began to work with vetted creative aging teaching artists from across the city. After the pilot was over, and as the library was building its creative aging infrastructure, the Services for Older Adults Leadership maintained and grew their existing relationships with a strong, diverse base of teaching artists who were able to continue to design and deliver new programs across various artforms.
Host Organization Name
Brooklyn Public Library
Host Organization Description
From the organization: Brooklyn Public Library’s (BPL) mission is to ensure the preservation and transmission of society’s knowledge, history and culture, and to provide Brooklyn’s 2.6 million residents with free, open access to information for education, reference, and recreation. With 59 locations, including a flagship Central Library and Business & Career Center, BPL is an integral part of the borough’s social fabric and a fundamental community institution — truly the People’s Library. Educational and cultural equity are at the forefront of everything BPL does, and the Library continuously tailors and adapts its services to meet the changing needs and interests of Brooklynites. A BPL branch falls within a mile of nearly every resident, acting as a critical hub in the neighborhood it supports and serving as a de facto town square in its community, providing essential resources and strengthening the social fabric.
In a borough where 23% of residents live in poverty, including one in three children, and where the costs of basic necessities often take priority over spending on cultural and educational opportunities, BPL’s free resources and programs are critical to ensuring all people have the tools they need to become productive and self-sufficient citizens. In 2016, BPL was awarded an IMLS National Medal for Museum and Library Service, the nation’s highest honor for museum and libraries, in large part due to the work of its Outreach Services department and its efforts to serve Brooklyn’s most vulnerable populations
Host Organization Website
Brooklyn Public Library has offered over 127 creative aging program series since 2011. Covering all of the artistic disciplines, their programs have been implemented in library branches and in senior centers across the borough.
BPL promoted their programs alongside all of their other events and programs, and dedicated a place for creative aging programming on their website. They also used partnerships with senior service organizations to promote directly to older adults.
New York City Creative Aging Libraries Project 2011-2012
In partnership with The New York Public Library (NYPL), and the Brooklyn Public Library (BPL), and with funding from The Fan Fox and Leslie R. Samuels Foundation, and additional funding from the Laura Jane Musser Fund, the initial series of programs served nearly 500 older adults through hands-on instructional programs.
Working with professional teaching artists, libraries have been implementing workshop series that actively engage older adults in learning and building skills in a variety of art forms. The free programs promote creativity and provide opportunities for meaningful social engagement. In each library, the workshops conclude with a public culminating exhibition, reading, or performance.
This unique program provides funding, access to great teaching artists and on-going technical assistance for public libraries, building their capacity to deliver programs for their older adult patrons.
Case Study Details
case study topicsOrganizational Commitment, Partnerships, Sustainability
organization typeLibrary System
art formLiterary Arts, Performing Arts, Visual Arts
program site typeLibraries, Senior Centers, Senior Housing
includes virtual programming?No
8-12 sessions @ 90-120 min.
funding sourcePrivate Foundation
Fan Fox and Leslie R. Samuels Foundation