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Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Great Idea for Homebound Service Book Discovery Problems

Yesterday I spent a wonderful day with the library workers who provide RA Service to adults from throughout the Spartanburg County [SC] Public Library system. You can click here for the details.

As I mentioned in that post, we had carved out time for the group to bring up specific challenges they are having in their system. From that conversation, I got the fodder for at least 3 upcoming blog posts, starting with today.

One of the women at the training [we will call her E for the purposes of this post] worked with the homebound program, something I have also done in my career. I have much to say about the joys of serving the homebound, but E brought up one of the biggest frustrations too:
Too often, the elderly homebound do not have a book discovery tool beyond us, the library workers who serve them.
Even in this day and age, many of them do not have reliable internet access, and, even when they do, they are not very good on using their time online to search for books they might enjoy. Many elderly homebound patrons, E's included, can barely use the Internet [if they even have it] to send emails.

E does the standard and obvious things to help her homebound patrons identify books, including:

  • Conducting the RA Conversation with the patron every time she visits to gather what was liked and disliked about the titles she delivered, which informs future choices.
  • Bringing lists of upcoming titles so the patrons can check off ones they want.
  • Providing other lists created by the library.
  • Using what she knows about the patrons to find new reads for them.
But what E is missing from her RA interactions is a way for her to allow her homebound to "browse" a larger collection. Yes she is having great success providing them with titles, but it is all based on what she chooses for them in the first place. She knows there are many more books out there that each of her patrons would enjoy if only they had a way to know what was available on a larger scale.

We talked about getting lists and help from all of the branches and even creating a way for more library workers throughout the system to suggest titles, but I had an idea I think would work very well for anyone serving any homebound patron, anywhere.

Bring old issues of Booklist along with the books each time.

Why Booklist, well a few reasons [besides the fact that I write for them]:
  1.  The reviews are all positive. Booklist's mission is to only include books that should be considered for your collection. This is key to why it would work as a book discovery tool for your homebound patrons. You won't waste their time with "bad" choices. All reviews are written to the book's best reader. Homebound patrons can decide if they want to read a specific title or not, but taken as a whole, the reviews are all good, solid choices.
  2. Each issue is a Spotlight issue, meaning it focuses on a genre or topic [or 2]. This means you can start by giving your homebound patron the issue about their favorite genre.
  3. You have the backlist paper copies of the magazine hanging around your library already. No one is reading them. Grab some issues from 1-2 years ago and give them to the patron. Tell him or her they can mark the ones he or she is most interested in. Who care if they mark up the magazine? What are we saving them for? This is a solid reason to use them.
Our patrons who are able enough to visit us can browse the entire collection, talk to multiple staff members. and see our varied displays to enhance their own book discovery. And those who have internet or visit us to get help navigating the Internet can be opened up to a wide range of more resources to find good reads.

The serendipity of finding the perfect title by accident, through random browsing brings feelings of such great joy. It also introduces readers up to books they might never have found any other way. Our homebound patrons are missing that piece of the service puzzle.

Bringing them old copies of Booklist, can recreate that feeling and bring some of the joy from the in-person visit back to the library experience for homebound patrons AND help library workers serve these patrons even better. 

There are plenty of great reads out there, waiting to be discovered. Get to it.

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