February 17, 2018

Remembering Resources | One Cool Thing

Amy Sobrino was nine years old when her grandmother was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease. The experience prompted Sobrino to learn all that she could about the condition. After earning her master’s in social work from St. Louis University, ­Sobrino, along with her mother, Shannon ­Nosbisch, formed Effingham Area ­Alzheimer’s Awareness (EAAA) and began partnering with the Effing­ham Public Library (EPL), IL, presenting a half-dozen programs annually for caregivers of those affected. She started in 2014 with the basics—knowing the warning signs, understanding elder law, and navigating care options. They brought in speakers and specialists who explored alternative therapies—music, art, pets, light, and ­aromatherapy.

Needing more than a program

Sobrino and Nosbisch realized that, along with support, caregivers need resources. Thus the impetus for the Forget-Me-Not Resource Center, which opened in November 2015 as a collection of more than 120 books, DVDs, CDs, and other items housed in the adult reading center of EPL. It contains two sections geared toward caregivers of those with dementia, each piece labeled with a bright blue forget-me-not.

MEMORIALIZED (l.–r.): Jeff Bloemker, mayor of Effingham, IL, at the Forget-Me-Not Resource Center with founders  Amy Sobrino and Shannon Nosbisch

MEMORIALIZED (l.–r.): Jeff Bloemker, mayor of Effingham, IL, at the Forget-Me-Not Resource Center with founders
Amy Sobrino and Shannon Nosbisch

Johnna Schultz, EPL’s adult service manager, said EPL’s mission is to be a community hub, and the library looks for opportunities such as this one with individuals who are passionate about what they’re doing. Schultz calls the Forget-Me-Not Resource Center ­“serendipitous.”

“[Sobrino and Nosbisch] were hosting the EAAA in our meeting room in an effort to pull the national Alzheimer’s Association into our rural area,” Schultz said. “When I saw what they were doing, I knew we wanted to work with them.”

Open to all

One of EPL’s continuing challenges is the large number of unserved people living beyond library districts. Said Schultz, “People can buy a nonresident card, but it’s $128 per year.”

Nosbisch and Sobrino live outside the library district. Growing up, Sobrino never had a library card. That affected the strategy for the Forget-Me-Not Resource Center.

“They didn’t want anyone to be denied checking out resources,” Schultz said. “They knew people would need to take items home and study them. They wanted to foster inclusiveness.”

So EPL created a single, special card, the EAAA card, sponsored by someone who paid the nonresident fee. Anyone, regardless of access to an EPL card, can check out resources from the Forget-Me-Not center on the EAAA card. The materials have no fines or fees. Because they are part of a special collection acquired through donations and grants, Schultz said the group wanted them to be available without strings or hoops. That means resources might be damaged or even lost forever, but Schultz said they’re okay with that.

“We’re taking a calculated risk, but I think it’s going to work,” Schultz said. “People will use materials as they need them. If someone passes them on to a friend, I believe they will end up back with us.”

Within the first three weeks, 53 items were checked out, and, so far, all have been returned. Most popular have been materials by Teepa Snow, one of America’s leading educators on dementia. The resource center also carries books to help children understand dementia. There are nursing home guides, memoirs, inspirational and motivational books, and films such as Still Alice and I’ll Be Me, a documentary on country musician Glen Campbell (and an LJ Best Video of 2015). The center also carries DVDs that simulate aquariums or butterflies in a garden to help soothe and calm someone who is feeling frustrated or agitated.

Interaction inspiration

Sobrino is also excited to offer Reminiscence Toolkits, small boxes filled with themed items to create special moments with loved ones, engage the brain, and help unlock memories. Caregivers can use these items to initiate conversations, asking questions such as, “Did you do any sewing when you were younger? Feel this ribbon—what does it remind you of? Did you ever make an apron? Do you like this thread color?” Caregivers can then continue conversations using items in their own home. Other kits focus on farming, fishing, cooking, religion, and beauty, themes based on the community’s ­values.

The choice to host EAAA’s meetings and resource center at the library instead of at a health center was deliberate. “There’s no judgment or stigma attached,” Sobrino said. “You’re just going there to learn. It’s a place the community knows and trusts.”

Being that community hub also opens doors to other programs and outside organizations that then feed one another. Said Schultz, “We hope this model will allow other libraries to see the many collaborative opportunities that exist in all of our communities.”

Denice Rovira Hazlett (denicehazlett.cm; @charmgirl onTwitter) is a feature, profile, and fiction writer and a Reference Associate, Holmes County District Public Library, Millersburg, OH

This article was published in Library Journal's March 15, 2016 issue. Subscribe today and save up to 35% off the regular subscription rate.