Libraries offer homebound services

Valerie Lewis handles outreach services for Suffolk County?s

Valerie Lewis handles outreach services for Suffolk County’s libraries. (March 6, 2012) (Credit: Newsday / John Paraskevas)

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For those who can't leave home, the world can come to them.

Local libraries have increasingly become a hub for boomers and seniors, attracted by a range of services and programs. But less well-known is that most libraries offer services to people who cannot get to the library because of health problems or physical disabilities.

Among Nassau's 54 public libraries, most offer some services to homebound people, says Mary Robinson, outreach services specialist for the Nassau Library System. Robinson notes that each local library is autonomous, so services will differ. For example, some libraries hand-deliver books; others mail them. Some will also mail or deliver other media such as DVDs, videotapes and CDs.

Also different are the eligibility requirements, because each library sets its own guidelines. Some may require the patron to fill out an application while others accept the request informally after receiving a letter. And, unlike many library programs that are open to all, homebound services are reserved for patrons of each library.

Similarly, most of Suffolk's 56 public libraries offer services for homebound people, but as in Nassau, each does it differently. "Many times the libraries are constrained by the resources they have, so they may be very picky and choosy on how they can provide their homebound services," says Valerie Lewis, administrator for outreach services at the Suffolk Cooperative Library System.

Perhaps just as important as the books is the human contact. Darlene Brush, a librarian who coordinates homebound services at the Cutchogue-New Suffolk Library, says she always puts a note in the packages of books she mails to patrons. The patrons often write back to thank her and ask for reading recommendations.

In Nassau, one of the most robust homebound services programs is at the Massapequa Public Library. The library hand delivers and picks up books, DVDs, videotapes and CDs. "We have a van, so it's not a hardship," says Janis Schoen, the library's director. "We're staying within the confines of Massapequa."

Schoen points out that not only seniors or the chronically ill can use homebound services. "If there's a young mother who just gave birth and wanted to get some service, that's perfectly fine," she says. "If somebody comes down with a medical problem and is going to be home for the next three weeks, that's fine, too."

To find out more about homebound services, call your local library.

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