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#LibrariesAreEssential Case Study – The Reminiscence Club at Hamilton Town House Library

Category: #LibrariesAreEssential, Blog, Case Studies


In this #LibrariesAreEssential series, we’ll be sharing case studies and contributions from key figures that demonstrate the vital value of Scotland’s libraries, now more than ever, as we look to a brighter future post-pandemic. For details of how to submit your own case study, please click here.

Case study kindly submitted by Paul Nicoll, Library Team Leader

‘Initially our project was to create a meeting place for those of any age who had some degree of dementia. We visited a few care homes to discuss with management if it would be possible to bring people along to the library on a given date. This proved difficult and for a few weeks care home staff brought some residents along, but it all petered out. The main issues were the logistics of transport and the simple fact that most care homes already organised events and entertainment within their own organisations.

After some reflection, we opened the project up to anyone who would be interested in a light hearted social gathering with a mix of discussion on local history, current affairs or football or indeed anything that people had on their minds. We asked library staff to give out leaflets and tell customers who may be interested about our new service. A few were attending activities we already provided, including a readers’ group and a computer drop in club. Over time we managed to build up a core of members who chose to come every week and some others came along now and again. A stream of people also started visiting who were invited via a Local Veteran’s Initiative, which was most welcome. Most members of the group are between 60 and 80 years of age. Some have mild dementia and others do not have it at all. This was never deliberately discussed unless an individual chose to raise it. The humanity and quiet acceptance of each person’s situation is profound and worth documenting.

There is an interesting ad hoc dynamic which is partly customer led and partly led by the staff who run The Club as it came to be known. With the assistance of the reference librarian, we start with examination of local newspapers from the 1940s and 50s, or we look at historical picture books from a similar time frame. This initiates all sorts of talk about local councillors, streets that no longer exist and a big favourite, long gone pubs and who once drank in them. That in turn leads to connections between the attendees, such as who went to what school and did they know Big Tam from Albert Street and such like. Then the dominos commence. However, as the club increased in size and the dominos were shared out to the point each person maybe only received two bricks, games become absurdly short which creates a degree of amusement. Quiz Time is a favourite for everyone including the staff themselves. This often descends into a gentle mayhem of confusion, feigned outrage and multiple accusations of cheating, which just adds to the laughter and merriment.

I am sure many who take part and who perhaps may have been a little lonely, have come to see their Thursday afternoon as a time to be relished and a point in their week that is genuinely looked forward to. A highlight of the year is the annual Christmas Lunch at the local Tavern. Indeed, planning and weekly payment for the meal starts in August. Debate would be had every week on where we should all go for months on end and questions would be asked as to what was and was not on the Christmas menu. Unfortunately due to the outbreak of Covid-19, the club was suspended. Some of the members have kept in touch with each other and the staff involved have also kept in touch with a few of the long-time members of the club. Everyone hopes over time the Library Service can reintroduce this and also expand Reminiscence Groups like the one outlined above to other libraries throughout South Lanarkshire as we build back from the Covid lockdown and restrictions.

This project has turned out to be a lifeline for many people, for reasons specific to them. Members of the group have made friends for the first time in years. People who had become perhaps a little reserved and distant over years of retirement have discovered a community and a voice once more. Quite simply, through these groups we have created are something to look forward to and often for the staff themselves who participate.’

Robert Geoffrey, a long time member of the Reminiscence Club added:

‘I was, to be honest, not sure at all about this. You see, I like my own company, but I am so glad I started coming along. The chat is great and actually I have not laughed so much in years.’

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