Library Services for Older Adults: reimagining community spaces for brooklyn public library's post-covid reopening

There are 1.7 million seniors (age 60 and above) living in New York City. Since the covid-19 pandemic, The growing role of libraries as community hubs became increasingly evident as many seniors face unprecedented barriers to accessing essential services, including meals, groceries, medicine, and support services.

The project is a collaborative effort between the Brooklyn public library (BPL) and Parsons DESIS Lab, with students of Public & Collaborative Services initially asked to co-create a blueprint of services that could be adapted by staff at each library branch with justice initiatives. Our project focuses pivoted to online design and ethnographic research, with emphasis on library reopening after libraries and schools were shut down due to the covid-19 pandemic.

Our group focused on imagining reopening scenarios for older adult patrons, which would likely involve a change in service spaces. We propose a variable rooms system, where library meeting rooms and televisiting services are repurposed for senior needs after reopening.

As a service and communication designer, I participated in systems and blueprints analysis, literary research, interviews, scenario and workshop creations.


service design, research, interior planning, interviewing


public libraries, civic services, older adults, health, reopening after pandemic


Arata Shimizu, Yan Sun, Masaki Iwabuchi

Our Question

How might we improve elder-specific accessibility so that senior patrons of BPL can achieve a social safety net given quarantine constraints, also considering both physical and mental health concerns with varying levels of digital literacy?


Our team first started with a service blueprint of telestory, focusing on library staff and older adult users with varying digital literacy levels. Telestory is a televisitation service available to selective BPL branches with justice initiatives, allowing families with incarcerated members to meet through scheduled video appointments.

The existing issues and opportunities for the telestory service.

We had video meetings with designers, architects, and seniors living in NYC better to understand the living conditions and potential creative changes for older adults. Secondary research in existing social and senior services were also conducted.


Our plan was based on a probable setting: BPL is planning to reopen in September with public schools. Local patrons from all kinds of backgrounds will require help and resources from BPL to slowly reintegrate back to society after the COVID slowdown.

public spaces

To ensure patrons are not overcrowding in public library spaces, BPL’s senior services department is now planning ahead, thinking of ways to reorganize their spaces and the services that would happen within.

existing resources

We propose that a telestory room would be used as variable rooms. Public space hadn't been designed to keep social distances before COVID-19 occurred. Repurposing simple technologies from telestory makes services more aligned with seniors who are not comfortable with technology. It is also more efficient and familiar for staff and management.


The public library would aid the needs of patrons considering three forms of accessibility: physical (Facilities, navigations, care support), cultural (Language, traditions), and digital (IT Literacy, internet access)


During our share back session, we facilitated a mini-workshop for our participants, including designers, students, library staff, social workers, and potential stakeholders, to discuss and create a room and poster that proposes the type of services provided for older adults in the meeting rooms.

We provided a range of vector images and emojis for the participants.

Each group had been given a person's story and needs to create the variable room and posters.