Sunday, August 14, 2011

On the road with Homebound Services

The image on our Homebound delivery bags.

So, I know I've been writing more about Bookmobile than about any of my other areas. FYI, my department, "Diversity and Accessibility Services," includes Homebound Services, Bookmobile, Library Volunteers, Services to Older Adults, Accessibility, Diversity and Literacy. My position as coordinator of the department includes direct involvement in Homebound, Bookmobile and Volunteers, and marginal involvement in the other areas. However, we have two vacancies in our department, an Outreach Librarian (the "Diversity" area) and an Accesibility Librarian (both were recently posted ... are you a librarian looking for work? I hope you applied!). The vacancies mean that I have also spent some time recently dealing with seniors stuff, accessibility questions, and services for new Canadians (Diversity), including coordinating the work of the library settlement workers.

After spending the first four months as Acting Coordinator focusing mostly on Bookmobile, I am now turning more attention to Homebound Services (Volunteer stuff is mostly status: maintain, for now...). Basically, to crib from our website, Homebound "staff and volunteers regularly select library materials and deliver them to [borrowers'] doors every month." The service is available to individuals of "any age who are confined to their home or residence for more than three months" - or the winter months! - "because of age, illness, frailty or caregiver responsibilities."

So, Homebound staff use their amazing readers' advisory skills to select materials for Homebound borrowers (some computer-literate Homebound borrowers also request online via our website), and staff and volunteers deliver materials every month to them (borrowers get longer loan periods and other extended privileges). We visit people in their homes, and also in continuing care centres, auxiliary hospitals and senior residences.

Recently, I did selection for 4 hours. We keep records for each Homebound borrower that include all their past loans (this is a special module in our ILS, specifically for libraries with Homebound departments), as well as a "profile" of the borrower: their likes, dislikes, etc. Most of our staff rely heavily on their own knowledge of (and expertise with) the collection to select for patrons; they also use tools such as Novelist (free to all OPL cardholders!) and in-house booklists for further ideas. I selected a total of 75 items for four patrons in my four hours (so about 19 items/hour, and remember, Homebound serves hundreds of borrowers a month!). For a patron who enjoys the contemorary historical "blockbusters" of Leon Uris, I chose Edward Rutherford's Dublin Saga, Sandra Brown's Rainwater, as well as titles by Beverly Swerling, Barbara Wood, and James Michener. For a Peter Robinson fan, I went with some Ann Granger, Kate Atkinson, Elizabeth Adler, Beverly Cleverly, and Ann Granger. A "certain type of" biography fan will be unpacking a bag filled with The Bride of Science : Romance, Reason, and Byron's Daughter by Benjamin Woolley, Letters of a woman homesteader by Elinore Pruitt Stewart, The Great Western Beach : A Memoir of A Cornish Childhood Between the Wars by Emma Smith, and The illustrated Cider with Rosie by Laurie Lee. For someone who enjoys the romantic suspense of Barbara Taylor Bradford (with a side order of historical fiction and family sagas), I chose Jayne Krentz's All Night, as well as titles by Karen Robards, Jo Ann Ross, and Suzanne Brockman. I had one patron who wanted some "coffee table books," so for that I . I also threw in some curve balls (read: literary "stretches" that also happen to be titles I have read and enjoyed), including Nicole Krauss's The history of love for a romance/family saga lover, and Kate Mosse's Sepulchre for a mystery / women's lit reader. There were many other treasures in there... I really should have taken pictures.

Selecting was an excellent way to exercise my readers' advisory muscles, get to know the collection at Main Library much better (I rarely browse there), and, of course, become more familiar with the work performed by the employees I supervise.

I also went out on two recent visits made by Homebound Services staff: one was to a long-term care facility, where we delivered new material, and picked up old material, to several residents, and one was to what we call a mini-library. A mini-library is pretty self-explanatory: we set up large boxes with a selection of our collection (see at right: novels, romans, nonfic, large print, PBs, A/V) in a seniors' care facility. It was really interesting for me to visit one of these: aside from the nerdy librarian "that's so cool!" factor, it was fun in a way I had trouble pinning down at first. Here it is: with all the other library "busy work" removed from the equation: staffing, equipment, managing patrons, Internet usage, facilities, etc., it was so lovely just to do checkout and readers' advisory. It was our service stripped to bare bones, with one meagre laptop (offline) and just our own wits to guide us. That probably sounds really lame, but it was a blast just chatting with the patrons about books and rummaging through the bins to help them find something to read. Extra points to the colleague I went with: since she helps select the material in the boxes, she knows the material like the back of her hand (and it's pretty diverse - although we can definitely say that some things are popular, like political biographies and romance novels). Working with her I observed probably some of the best readers' advisory transactions I have seen in a long time.

More on Homebound in the coming weeks....

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