Rebecca Clifford always loved and appreciated books, so after an accident in 2008 that caused a spinal cord injury and placed her in a wheelchair, she had to rely on family and friends to pick up books for her at the library.
Then one day that all changed when one of her sisters was picking up a book for her and learned that the library delivers books to those who are unable to go and use the services in the Oak Lawn Public Library.
Clifford started getting books delivered to her the following week.
“It’s a good service because my sister and friends are really busy,” said Oak Lawn resident Clifford, who has been using the services for about a year. “They’re still accommodating (but); it’s one less thing they had to do for me.”
Now the program is expanding and seeing some changes.
Tippi Price, customer services department head at the Oak Lawn Public Library, said the purpose of the program is to go outside the library’s walls and find patrons not able to come in due to physical, mental or temporary impairments to use services in the library. In doing so, she and her staff are now targeting nursing homes, rehab centers and adult daycare centers.
“We’re going where the needs are,” said Price, who started working at the library in October. “We always had, but with more people we can cover more areas.”
They also are trying to help facilities build libraries and programs that could include artifacts, travel talks and sensory experiences, and have changed the name of the program to Outreach Services.
“We’re not just focused on books but where the books start,” Price said about wanting special programs for patrons that would go beyond reading. “We’re trying to find ways we can incorporate ourselves in people’s lives.”
The Oak Lawn library’s homebound program, now known as Outreach Services, started more than 20 years ago with volunteers before it was eventually given to Nancy Dunne, the library’s interlibrary loan supervisor. Dunne said the services has grown since then where in addition to print books, the library is able to offer audio books and magazines through the Illinois Talking Book program, which is part of a nationwide network that provides library service to residents who cannot read print because of a physical or visual impairment.
“It’s nice that we can bring now more than books. We couldn’t do that before,” Dunne said. “The population was elderly people who never saw computers in their lives, now they are more sophisticated”… and a tech-savvy group, she said.
Clifford said probably down the road she will be interested in using books on tapes but luckily with her injury she can still read a book and turn pages.
As of Feb.12, 17 people are using the Outreach Services, which is up from nine people when Price started in October. The program is growing, but Price said with 60,000 people in Oak Lawn, the numbers are not a true representation of people that are in need of services. The library hopes to make more people aware of its services through word of mouth, its newsletter and the library’s revamping website.
It was through word of mouth that Oak Lawn resident Lillian Spiewak learned about the library’s outreach services.
“Someone mentioned it,” said Spiewak, who is handicapped and homebound. “I called the library and asked and was told I could order books. That’s how I got Nancy ([to deliver books). That was my lucky day. She usually comes on a Wednesday or Thursday.”
Spiewak, who has been using the services for a couple of years, gets eight to 10 books each visit. She likes reading books on the Amish, murder, and dogs and cats written by veterinarians, which she is reading now. Spiewak said the services are a lifesaver as she would never get books if it didn’t exist.
“Nancy’s good at picking out books. She knows my taste,” Spiewak said. “It’s a charm. I read them as fast as I get them. I love it.”
Price said it’s important for them to develop a relationship with the patrons and know their reading taste because they cannot get out and like the visit. “Sometimes it’s more important than the reading materials you bring,” she said. “We try to service their needs.”
Dunne agreed. “It’s not just the books. They love the contact.”
When it comes to the books, Clifford said she doesn’t have to wait long for them to be delivered. She reads about two books a week, mostly fiction books, biographies and what’s on the best seller’s list.