Library service for homebound starts using mail instead of van


April 03, 1997|By Joni Guhne | Joni Guhne,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

MOST OF US know all about how the dashing Pony Express was replaced by more modern technology such as the telegraph and trains.

It seems that something of the opposite has occurred.

For the past 20 years, library books and materials have been delivered to homebound county residents courtesy of the Care-A-Van.

That trusty vehicle has been replaced by the U.S. mail in hopes of reaching more patrons.

Any resident temporarily or permanently homebound by an illness, disability or injury is eligible for the free Library By Mail service.

For Jean Levy, who runs the new program's information services, this is also a change.

"Along with another staff person, I used to go out in the van two days a week," says Levy. "You felt like you really got to know the patrons when you went to their homes, however briefly, over the years, meeting them face to face.

"But it's amazing how well you can get acquainted over the phone. I spend a lot of time interviewing patrons to determine their reading profile, their reading habits in fiction and nonfiction, so that I can make good suggestions."

"We drew upon the experience of other systems around the country," Levy says. "We looked into numerous programs, and the best were adapted for Anne Arundel County.

"We began orienting our Care-A-Van customers last fall, and we used both the Care-A-Van and the mail program throughout the month of February. We've just completed the first full month of the mail program by itself.

"The hope is to reach more patrons this way. The cost probably won't end up being that much different. The savings is in staff time."

Patrons have access to everything in the library that can be checked out, including talking books available through the Maryland State Library for the Blind and Physically Handicapped.

Deliveries of library material are limited more by size than by weight. The library supplies flexible zippered packs, similar to a bank's night deposit bag, that typically hold two hardcover books or four paperbacks.

The library pays the postage to and from a patron's house. The library pays no postage for large-print or audio material because it falls into the category of free matter for the blind.

The new service is based at the North County Area Library, and all requests can be made over the phone by calling 410-222-6270 or TDD 410-787-0236 and asking for a member of the Library By Mail staff.

Pub Date: 4/03/97

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