2017-12-28 / Front Page

Library reaches out

McArthur Library wants to expand delivery program
By Grant McPherson
Staff Writer


Pat Reny, left, lived in saco for more than 75 years before moving across the river to Biddeford Estates last month. Greg Carbonella volunteers to deliver books to her from McArthur Library every two to three weeks. The library’s home bound delivery program is almost two years old. Anyone interested in delivering books or receiving them can email Library Director Jeff Cabral at jcabral@mcarthur.lib.me.us. (Grant McPherson photo) Pat Reny, left, lived in saco for more than 75 years before moving across the river to Biddeford Estates last month. Greg Carbonella volunteers to deliver books to her from McArthur Library every two to three weeks. The library’s home bound delivery program is almost two years old. Anyone interested in delivering books or receiving them can email Library Director Jeff Cabral at jcabral@mcarthur.lib.me.us. (Grant McPherson photo) BIDDEFORD – McArthur Public Library wants to grow its homebound delivery program and welcomes any new volunteers interested in joining. Since March 2016, volunteers with the library have delivered books to nursing homes and assisted living facilities throughout Biddeford including St. Andre Health Care, McArthur Home for Aged People, the Mission Hill Complex of Biddeford Housing Authority and the Emery School of Avesta Housing. The program has five volunteers who deliver books to residents every two to three weeks.

Library Director Jeff Cabral said he’s always wanted to do a homebound delivery program in Biddeford but was unable to afford a staff-run vehicle like larger cities such as Portland. Volunteers can deliver any materials that are available in the library such as large-print books, magazines, audiobooks and DVDs.

“We’re looking to expand the program and get more patrons involved,” Cabral said. “Each volunteer can deliver to two or three patrons if they would like and it fits their schedule. All volunteers range in age and background and have really strong connections with the Biddeford community. We tried to target locations in Biddeford where groups of people lived who otherwise couldn’t get to the library. The program is meant to bring the library to them. The visit is often the most valuable part of the program.”

Melanie Coombs is a librarian and adult services supervisor at McArthur as well as a homebound delivery volunteer. She said because Maine is one of the oldest states in the nation demographically, she wanted to help a population that has trouble reaching the library.

“A lot of people who are homebound have very little contact with the outside world,” Coombs said. “Having somebody go in to visit is a really big thing in their lives. You develop a relationship that’s extremely unique with people. It’s a lot more than just books.”

Coombs has loved reading for most of her life, after she had difficulty with it as a child. She said that while the library does well reaching most people, it is committed to improving access for everyone.

“For me, library science is a passion,” she said. “When I finally fell in love with libraries, I became an advocate to make sure underserved people get services. Libraries are a cradle-to-grave service. We do a great job making sure infants have programming, but we don’t have programs for people who can’t physically come into the building. It’s the only area we have to work on.”

Each time a patron signs up for delivery from the library, they fill out a survey to help volunteers find the right book for them. Volunteers can pick out the books themselves or notify library staff ahead of time what they would like to check out, and a tote bag with books will be available for them behind the front desk. McArthur Library is also part of Minerva, which allows libraries throughout the state to exchange books and resources.

“I read 150 books a year so I have a broad spectrum of books I can recommend,” Coombs said. “Each person on staff has a specialty. We just tailor it to whatever they’re looking for.”

Pat Reny, 90, moved to Biddeford Estates a month ago and enjoys reading Nora Roberts novels. She had previously lived in Saco since she was 15. Greg Carbonella, a second-year student at the University of New England College of Osteopathic Medicine, made sure he had a novel of Roberts’ when he visited Reny Thursday, Dec. 21. He’s been volunteering for the library since the beginning of his fall semester this year.

For Carbonella, the homebound delivery program is a way for him to hone the patient relationship skills he one day hopes to employ in his practice.

“Getting more experience with the older population has been great,” he said. “Working with older people is no different than working with other populations. I like going to the library and figuring out what other books she might be interested in. Having that casual conversation is the main part that I enjoy.”

Reny said she probably spends about five hours per day reading, starting with the newspaper every morning until she falls asleep with a book in her lap at night.

“That’s the life I’ve led ever since I was a kid,” she said. “We didn’t have TV. We didn’t have radio. If I wanted something to do I had to go read a book. We always had books in the house. I can’t picture one person in my family that doesn’t like to read. Of course the newer generation is a different story. I don’t think they’ll know what a book is. I’d rather read than eat.”

Carbonella will start his residency in another part of the state by summer and hopes more volunteers will be able to take his place by then.

“I think the library is an integral part of the community,” he said. “I love supporting and furthering their mission.”

To volunteer for the library or to have books delivered email Cabral at jcabral@mcarthur.lib.me.us or call 284- 4181.

Contact Staff Writer Grant McPherson at news@inthecourier.com

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