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Ageism and libraries

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Presentation by Sheila Webber for the Critical Approaches to Libraries Conference 2020 held online, on 13 May 2020.

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Ageism and libraries

  1. 1. Ageism and libraries Sheila Webber Information School, University of Sheffield CALC, May 2020
  2. 2. Outline • Ageism • Ageism in a time of Coronavirus • Ageism and the workplace • Ageism and people Sheila Webber 2020
  3. 3. Ageism can affect people of any age, but I’m focusing on ageism and older people References at https://tinyurl.com/yb7x49kd https://www.slideshare.net/sheilawebber Pictures by me except where otherwise stated Sheila Webber 2020
  4. 4. Some triggers for my awareness MIL events Young people Old people “Seniors in a digital world can be easily overwhelmed by all the new technology around us.” Aging in Place (2020) “We will host 13 dynamic international young people willing to spend their holidays surrounded by nature and fun while contributing to the field!” EAVI (2019) Johnston, 2020. Sheila Webber 2020
  5. 5. Positionality • Baby boomer • Female, White, English • Principle wage earner, no children University: First in Family Different perspectives e.g. Gardner, C.C. & Galoozis, E. (2018). False narratives of generational difference in academic libraries: Toward an intersectional approach. Library Quarterly, 88(2), 177- 192. Reading different things into the same articles; implicit and explicit standpoints Saunders (2009) Sheila Webber 2020
  6. 6. Ageism “Ageism is the stereotyping of, prejudice or discrimination against individuals or groups based on their age. Although ageism can target young people, most studies in this area focus on the unfair treatment of older people. Ageism is deeply structural, ‘find[ing] expression in institutional systems, individual attitudes and inter-generational relationships.’ ” European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights (2018, p.11) Cognitive, affective & behavioral components; micro-, meso- & macro-levels (see also Iversen, Larsen & Solem, 2009) Sheila Webber 2020
  7. 7. Have you experienced ageism (at any age)? 1 – Yes 2 – No (if not sure etc. do not click anything) If you have examples of strategies and actions that combat ageism (for people of any age), either relating to the library workforce or users of libraries, please contribute them at any time in chat Sheila Webber 2020
  8. 8. “The 2015 Eurobarometer survey on discrimination shows that discrimination or harassment because of old age is the most frequently mentioned type of discrimination: 42 % of Europeans perceive discrimination due to old age (being over 55 years old) as “very” or “fairly” widespread in their country.” European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights (2018, p.9) The status of elders, and the stereotypes of ageism, will vary depending on culture, country, religion etc. Sheila Webber 2020
  9. 9. “Older people are more likely to be portrayed as senile, ugly, stupid, unskilled, unproductive, unhealthy, badly- dressed, sedentary and inactive, all portrayals aligned with negative old age stereotypes of low competence and physical and mental decline” Swift & Steeden (2020, p.31) Also stereotypes of the “successful” ager – slim, fit, tasteful, perfect grandparent ArmyMedicine.(2014) Sheila Webber 2020
  10. 10. UNESCO(2020 “Increasingly, media discourse is also promoting the view that all older people are lonely and socially isolated. Contrary to this discourse, the evidence shows that loneliness and social isolation affect people of all ages. Recent studies suggest that young adults may be at greater risk of loneliness than older adults, with one in ten people aged 16-24 years being often lonely, compared to three per cent of people aged 65 and over” British Gerontology Society (2020) See e.g. also Milner (2020) Sheila Webber 2020
  11. 11. Source: Swift & Steeden (2020, pp.10 & 11) from a lit review Sheila Webber 2020
  12. 12. Ageism in a time of Coronavirus Sheila Webber 2020
  13. 13. “many more families are going to lose loved ones before their time” #okboomer #boomerremoval #boomerremover “they’ve had their time” “People over 70 could be forced to social isolate for a year to fight coronavirus” “none of your residents aged over 75 will be admitted to hospital” Sheila Webber 2020
  14. 14. “Within family relationships, benevolently ageist language that emphasises care and concern, and which fits with an old-age stereotype of incompetence, can encourage dependency and discourage more active ageing behaviours” Swift & Steeden (2020, p28.) My grandchild said “I’ve lost one grandma, I don’t want to lose you too” (example of older person talking about self isolation) “You can hear the sort of collective sigh of everyone under 40, can’t you, knowing that they’re going to have weeks of phone calls from their parents going ‘the app’s gone funny, I don’t know what to do!’ ” Angela Barnes (BBC, 2020) Casual ageism in talking about Covid-19 contact tracking with phone apps Sheila Webber 2020
  15. 15. Ageism and the workforce Sheila Webber 2020
  16. 16. Older people active in the workforce “There are currently more than 360,000 people over 70 in paid work [in the UK], including one in seven men between 70 and 75 and one in sixteen women... Almost one million people over the age of 70 provide unpaid care, including one in seven women in their 70s. One in five people aged between 70 and 85, over 1.5 million people, volunteer in their communities” British Gerontology Society (2020) “In 2019, nearly 1 in 5 (19%) of the entire self- employed [UK] workforce is over 60” RestLess (2019) Sheila Webber 2020
  17. 17. Older people active in the workforce as a problem • Theme of young, ambitious librarians held up by outdated old people who just won’t go “The participants raised concerns about the difficulties of encouraging older staff who have not kept up-to-date with changes and are not prepared to move out of their comfort zone to update their skills or exit the profession.” Barthorpe (2012, p.6) • Theme of older people discriminating against younger people, ignoring their ideas, stereotyping & insulting younger people Sheila Webber 2020
  18. 18. Conflating “age” with “place in hierarchy” Munde (2010) ‘career timetables’ hypothesis “involves expectations of how individuals move up in the organizational hierarchy as they become older and more experienced, and that employees who ‘lag behind’ on this schedule - and who are hence surrounded by younger individuals in their work unit - are more likely to face discrimination” Naegele, De Tavernier & Hess (2018, p.79) Sheila Webber 2020
  19. 19. Workplace discrimination is, of course, intersectional Age, disability, ethnicity, colour, religion, gender, sexual orientation see e.g. European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights (2019, pp.73-74) Sheila Webber 2020
  20. 20. ‘old male grey eminence is looked at in a different way than an old grey woman’ • Lookism, girling, assumptions about having children, old-ageism “The ‘optimal’ time for women managers seemed to be relatively short, somewhere between 40 and 50 years of age” Jyrkinen & McKie (2012, p. 70) • Adjah & van der Walt (2019) – cultural expectations of women (in Ghana), lack of mentors, lack of time & opportunity in early career stages IntervieweeinJyrkinen(2014) Sheila Webber 2020
  21. 21. Aspects of workplace ageism • Attitudes, behaviours, and institutional practices & policies • Varies: sector; organisation size, structure, identity & culture Naegele, De Tavernier & Hess (2018) • Implicit ageism existing even where explicit doesn’t e.g. in recruitment e.g. Malinen & Johnston (2013); Zaniboni et al. (2019) “participants tended to associate younger workers with desirable work characteristics (competent, motivated, responsible, able and laborious), and older workers with undesirable working characteristics (demotivated, unreliable, incapable, low-skilled and negligent)” Zaniboni et al. (2019, p.463) Sheila Webber 2020
  22. 22. Reviewing work practices • Age-inclusive human resources policies • Age-blind promotion and recruiting procedures e.g. reviewing job descriptions & performance appraisal criteria for biased wording; lack of assumptions about ambitions at different life stages • Multigenerational teams; avoiding stereotypes in mentoring • Discussing explicitly issues such as communication, working styles & transitions • CPD: Taking differing learning styles into account; catering for different approaches to CPD; taking training needs at all career stages and ages seriously Sheila Webber 2020
  23. 23. Reviewing work practices • Remembering that just because powerful people in an organisation are older, it does not mean that all older people are powerful • Recognising and challenging implicit stereotypes, prejudice and discrimination • Reflecting – in challenging the old “librarian” stereotypes – don’t let’s create new, ageist ones Sheila Webber 2020
  24. 24. Ageism and people “At the public libraries studied the only services explicitly for older adults are a) homebound delivery services; b) assistive technologies in the computer lab; and, c) partnerships with retirement communities. All three services frame older adulthood as a time of disability and decline.” Lenstra (2017)17) Sheila Webber 2020
  25. 25. What do the “older people” events saying about the people providing them? ALA (2006) 21 ideas [for older people] for the 21st Century includes: • Offer programs on Burma Shave signs, local trivia, music boxes, WWII. • Have a show of wedding fashions from the 30s and 40s. “Programs offered by the five [Canadian] library systems were fairly traditional and did not appear to address older adults as composites of diverse ethnicities, sexual orientations, family arrangements, religious affiliations, etc.” Dalmer (2017) Sheila Webber 2020
  26. 26. Spaces • World Health Organization Regional Office for Europe. (2017). Age-friendly environments in Europe: A handbook of domains for policy action. • Physical and virtual accessibility • Universal Design principles, as ever, will help all users • Dedicated spaces in larger libraries for older people where they can feel comfortable (Lenstra, 2017) Sheila Webber 2020
  27. 27. Ideas: Events & services • Events aimed at all ages (e.g. gaming nights) (Wynia, 2019) & not just “intergenerational” events seem from the young person’s perspective (Decker, 2010) • Avoiding always age badging as puts off some older people (Wynia, 2019) • Listen to needs without preconceptions: e.g. Online dating programmes (Wynia, 2019) • Integrate into existing interests e.g. tech support to quilting group (Lenstra, 2017) Sheila Webber 2020
  28. 28. Ideas: Teaching & supporting • Older people teaching older people: actively recruiting older volunteers & librarians (Lenstra, 2017) • Librarians/ volunteers learning from older people (Lenstra, 2017) • Events that use skills of people of varied ages “One library offered a program where older adults taught youth how to fix small appliances. A program such as this stands in contrast to the ageist assumption that the daily activities of those who are no longer in the labour force hold little practical value” (Wynia, 2019) Sheila Webber 2020
  29. 29. Most articles/research do not address ageism in tertiary education • Services and messages from universities geared towards students in late teens/early 20s • I have heard numerous complaints from students about this: I do not think universities take this exclusion very seriously • Academic libraries creating programmes for older people: may also be “a significant source of philanthropic donations”! (Carlson, cited Sabo, 2017 p.13) Sheila Webber 2020
  30. 30. • Connecting with older people’s organisations (ones run by older people) to advise & represent • Just because someone on an advisory committee is “old” it does not automatically mean the older person’s voice is being expressed • Examples from other countries (not just Western) Stratagies Sheila Webber 2020
  31. 31. “People of all ages are privileged with the same rights, and policies need to be applied at population level. Ageism – the stereotyping, prejudice, and discrimination against people on the basis of their age – has detrimental consequences for societies and individuals.” British Gerentology Society, 2020 Sheila Webber 2020
  32. 32. Sheila Webber Information School University of Sheffield s.webber@shef.ac.uk Twitter: @sheilayoshikawa http://information-literacy.blogspot.com/ http://www.slideshare.net/sheilawebber/ References for this presentation at https://docs.google.com/document/d/14F9sEHZ8Fq0wI5gZ1IVkPGP- I88bOcWm02D7n8Vu1cg/edit?usp=sharing or https://tinyurl.com/yb7x49kd Photos and graphics: Sheila Webber except where otherwise indicated

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