Libraries as Brain Health Centers

Most of us know the basics of a healthy body lifestyle: good nutrition, plenty of rest and exercise, no smoking. But what is a healthy brain lifestyle?

Sixty staff from all types of libraries attended an ILA pre-conference workshop sponsored by the Idaho Commission for Libraries (ICfL) to explore brain health and discuss how libraries can support brain health in their communities. Dr. Paul Nussbaum, Clinical Neuropsychologist, updated participants on brain structure and function and the myriad of ways to keep brains alert and developing. Because brains thrive on the complex and novel, libraries can play an important role in supporting brain health by providing programs and activities that support brain stimulation in any of the following areas:

 Mental stimulation

 Nutrition

 Physical activity

 Socialization

 Spirituality

Co-presenter Stephen Ristau introduced the concept of libraries as brain health centers, provided numerous examples of library activities that support the above areas, and led participants through an exercise to identify outcomes, possible activities, potential partners, and evaluation methods for each of the brain health areas.

The presentation ended with the following observations from Dr. Nussbaum:

 Brain health is a culture not a program

 Education is the base of brain health

 Brain Health can help position the library as a “go to” place

 Important for library staff to “walk the walk” and believe in the concept of libraries as brain health centers

ICfL staff will explore ways the Commission can help develop the concept throughout the state as part of its Mid-Life Adult initiative which focuses on programming for adults 50-65 years of age. The morning session of the presentation was archived and is available at: along with handouts distributed at the workshop and a summary of break-out sessions in each of the brain health support areas listed above. Contact Erica Compton or Sue Walker at ICfL for more information about Mid-Life Adults programs sponsored by the Commission such as VolunteerMatch or NextAvenue.


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