Jean Perney smiles as she answers her door Friday to see Jared Cheek, senior information assistant at the Monroe County Public Library, who is delivering books to her home. (Rich Janzaruk / Herald-Times)
Jean Perney smiles as she answers her door Friday to see Jared Cheek, senior information assistant at the Monroe County Public Library, who is delivering books to her home. (Rich Janzaruk / Herald-Times)
When Mary Haik had to give up driving, she was afraid she might have to give up trips to the Monroe County Public Library, too.

But with the library’s homebound program, the library comes to her. For the past three years she’s had a steady stream of books, articles, music and films delivered to her doorstep by a volunteer who has become a close friend.

“When you’re active all your life and you get shut in, it’s very hard,” Haik said. “This has made my life happy. I get someone that I can relate to, and I can get materials that keep me connected.”

The staff of the Monroe County Public Library’s homebound program don’t think of themselves as a delivery service. It’s more like a house call — the kind a doctor might make — for patrons with significant mobility issues.

Only instead of prescribing medicine, they prescribe books.

How it works

Most well-funded libraries have programs similar to MCPL’s home delivery service program, said Chris Jackson, special audiences strategist. They don’t always look like personal home deliveries: some programs put books in the mail for patrons who can’t leave their homes. But Monroe County is compact enough to drive easily, and the local library’s program started as a home delivery service in 1972.

The library has a Bookmobile, which transports books to communities throughout the county, and a van service, which takes a cart of curated materials to park in the lobby of places such as nursing homes, allowing patrons to browse independently. But some people can’t even get to the lobby, much less climb the steps of the Bookmobile. It’s for them that the homebound service exists.

When a new patron signs up for the service, program coordinator Katelynn Dockerty schedules a phone call. In many cases, because the patrons haven’t been able to use the library for so long, she signs them up for a new library card. Then she asks them an extensive list of questions to get to know the new patron: what books they like, what they don’t like, what they might be interested in exploring. Dockerty and the other homebound program staff members use that information to start curating a personalized selection of books for the reader.

And that, Jackson said, “is where it gets fun.”

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