Public libraries are a valuable resource for the communities they serve, but for some, poor health or other obstacles prevent them from visiting. For homebound individuals and others who qualify, the McCracken County Public Library offers a service that takes the books to them.
Since 2011, Homebound Outreach Coordinator Cathy Edwards has provided books and audio books for Paducah and McCracken County residents who aren't able to visit the library through the McCracken County Public Library Homebound Delivery Service. Edwards hand delivers books to individuals in nursing homes and assisted living facilities throughout the county and mails books to others who are homebound in postage-paid packaging.
She currently provides books and audio books for about 80 people in nursing homes and assisted living facilities and about 16 people by mail. The service can also provide materials for patients in local hospitals.
Edwards said books are sent in the mail in blue canvas bags that each have a clear pocket on the front containing a card with the address and postage. When the recipient finishes the books, he or she puts them back in the bag, flips over the card - which has the return address and postage on the back - and places it back in the clear pocket and mails the books back to the library.
For nursing home and assisted living facility residents, Edwards said she often works with the facilities' respective activities director. Most of the time, Edwards said, she hand delivers the books to the recipients in their rooms. She goes back in about three weeks to pick up the books and drop off new ones.
But that's not the only thing the library administrator does for people in the program. She said sometimes people using the Homebound Service will ask her, for instance, genealogy questions about their family trees or to find an old obituary in the newspaper for them - the sorts of things a person might go to the library to find out - and she'll look it up for them.
"The way I look at it is I try to be their library, because they can't get out and come to the library," Edwards said.
Edwards said one way she brings the library to Homebound Delivery Service patrons at one nursing home, Emeritus at Paducah, is by holding a book discussion there once a month. She has also occasionally held a genealogy program there as well.
"I try to cater to whatever it is that they need, in addition to providing their reading material," Edwards said.
But Edwards said simply providing people who can't go to the library with something to read makes a big difference in their lives. Edwards said Helen Morgan, who lives at Superior Care Home in Paducah, probably goes through about six books a month through the program. Add to that the books one of her sons brings her, and Morgan said she probably reads about eight or nine books a month.
Morgan, 95, said she wasn't always such an avid reader because when she was younger raising five children kept her busy. But now that she's taken up reading as a hobby, Morgan said she mostly reads Christian fiction, because the messages they portray give her a good feeling.
"It means a lot," Morgan said of the opportunity to have library books, adding that she knows Edwards will pick something good for her to read.
Erica Fondaw, who is the activity director at Superior Care Home, said the program is especially nice for other Superior Care residents who, unlike Morgan, don't have relatives who will bring them books to read.
Edwards said that McCracken County residents of all ages can apply for the program, and that the program also delivers to people who are homebound for short periods of time too, because of injuries or other issues.
The application for the library's Homebound Delivery Service can be filled out online at the library's website at http://mclib.net/homebound or by calling the library and having an application sent by mail.
For more information on the Homebound Delivery Service, call Edwards at 270-442-2510, ext. 118.
Contact Leanne Fuller, a Paducah Sun staff writer, at 270-575-8653.