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Guest post: Getting creative with library outreach at Alzheimer’s Australia

In our latest guest post, Liberty user Stroma Mauritzen talks about how the Alzheimer’s Australia library service has created a vibrant and successful library outreach program through pop up libraries, blogging, a “recommended reading” sticker, and the exciting opportunities they are investigating for the future.

Getting creative with library outreach at Alzheimer’s Australia

Guest post by Stroma Mauritzen, Librarian, Alzheimer’s Australia Vic

Who we are

Alzheimer’s Australia library in Victoria is one of six dementia collections around the country. As I write, the organisation is in the process of moving towards the national unification of our States and Territory bodies to form one organisation. An exciting opportunity that has at its heart improved services and representation for all Australians living with dementia, their families and their carers.

The Victorian branch is a single person library with a collection of around 3500 items. Combined our collections total over 14,000 items all related to dementia.

Our collection

Five years ago the libraries in each state came together and collaborated on a combined dementia library catalogue.  It is now arguably one of the largest dementia collections worldwide and certainly comparable to the large collection held in the UK.

Our library network is committed to providing access to quality dementia related information for people living with dementia as well as supporting the unique and innovative work of our colleagues in the organisation.

Our legacy print collection is comprehensive. It was established in the early 1980’s as not much more than a filing cabinet of clippings when very little information was available for people living with dementia. This collection has been developed over the years with diligence and historical preservation in mind. Added to this in recent years have been digital resources.
Our extensive selection of resources is able to satisfy a range of requirements covering many topics in different formats, including non-fiction and fiction titles, graphic novels, DVDs, and children’s picture books about dementia.

Some things the developed collection has achieved include:

  • A single source of information for the dementia community
  • Access to resources to support knowledge development
  • Supporting training for sector professionals
  • A “home” for the grey literature in dementia care from both  national and international sources and services
  • Knowledge transfer via various medium, including blogs, direct delivery, newsletters and digital learning hubs


An ever recurring theme in the management of the library is that of effective exposure and outreach to nonusers or those who are typically underserved by the library. Making personal connections where possible by both being available for direct contacts as well as ensuring all digital communications use a human ‘voice’ is paramount. For many people the interaction with the library will be for a limited time while managing the changes dementia has brought into their lives. For others it may be a relationship with more longevity as they continue lifelong learning while working in allied sectors. Either way we need to ensure our relevance by successfully making connections.

With this in mind the past few years has seen us develop a few new ways to reach out;

The Dementia resources blog established in 2014 has monthly traffic of around 1200 visitors. This blog was established as we sought to extend our reach to a wider audience. Creating subject specific blog posts (Travelling well with dementiafor example) enables blog users to quickly select topics of interest. It also gives longevity to posts.

This strategy has been a success and also assists us to identify and measure the areas of interests to users.

The blog aims to share information from a variety of sources and in all cases; it is used to highlight any resources of Alzheimer’s Australia. We try to value add giving some narrative around the different resources we recommend. We want to show that the information we’re providing has been reviewed and that we think it is quality information. The blog is updated monthly and we use social media to repost. The blog address is incorporated in all our marketing.

The popup library

We began our roaming library two years ago after a library colleague was inspired by an excellent article published in the Australian Library Journal. This article was primarily about the use of the popup library strategy in the public library sector but gave rise to the question why not in ours.

“Pop-up libraries are a simple and cost-effective way to raise the profile, enhance promotion, promote a positive image and challenge stereotypes of the library in the community…reaching people who do not use the library.” Exploring pop-up libraries in practice in The Australian Library Journal (2015)64:2, p.94

The pop up library does expose not only our dementia resources to a broader cross-section of the community it also alerts people to our full service.

Since we launched in late 2015 there have been in excess of 50 popup libraries held across 8 locations. These include at public community lectures, Memory Lane Cafes and support group meetings.  We have been reaching into our regional areas with further targeted areas identified for the coming year. The library is always warmly welcomed at events and encourages new connections between users as they share reviews and recommendations with each other.

Our popup libraries are supported with volunteer assistance and without these enormously knowledgeable and dedicated people the project would not be sustainable.

Recommended reading stickers

When browsing the local bookshop we all welcome the influence of an award sticker or a book that proudly boasts itself a staff recommended read.  Taking inspiration from this and to assist our users to navigate our collection we have developed the Alzheimer’s Australia staff recommend sticker.

Our key criteria for the sticker;

  • Well written/produced
  • Consistently good feedback from borrowers
  • Positive reviews from specialist clinicians
  • The library staff loved it!

This simple strategy has been enormously helpful for our volunteer staff as well as for users particularly at those times when library staff are not available.. Where to start when confronted with an overwhelming selection of choice is something we all can identify with.

The Dementia Learning Hub

Launched this year this digital resource aims to provide a single point of access for all things relating to dementia education. Our learning programs are suitable for a wide range of qualified health professionals and dementia support staff.

The library is represented in the subscription area and packages content that is relevant to the learning modules.

The future

We are currently exploring other ways to expose the collection such as Books on the Rail.

This innovative project looks to introduce people to a range of reading material in an environment and at a time when they have the time to absorb.
An area of particular interest to me is the use of fiction to help people navigate health related issues. Burying your head in a novel isn’t just a way to escape the world, fiction has the potential to improve a reader’s capacity to understand what others are thinking and feeling.
Thoughtful and considered fiction can serve as a form of advocacy and insight into living with a diagnosis of dementia. This could be a great opportunity to expose some of the terrific fiction available around dementia as well as ensuring contact details for our helpline are made available to those that might benefit from it.

The coming year will undoubtedly bring about many changes and I am incredibly optimistic that the opportunity for new partnerships and collaborations as well as increased exposure will ensure that this very special collection continues to reach out and make a difference to the lives of people living with dementia.

About me

I have worked for the past 23 years in the health/disability sector. Prior to this I have experienced and been exposed to a range of library environments across the academic, public and special sectors.

It is without doubt that managing the collection at Alzheimer’s Australia has been the most rewarding role. Libraries are constantly facing challenges and this collection has not been immune. However it has always had full support and enthusiasm at an organisational level. I believe our dementia specific collection is of enormous significance and I will do all I can to ensure its future viability.