Reading is one of life’s great pleasures – and may be especially important if you are elderly or disabled and have difficulty getting out of the house. But what do you do if you can no longer visit your local library? No problem! With Vivacity’s Library Link, the books can come to you. We talked to Pat Rose, a volunteer with Peterborough’s Library Link service, about what it has to offer
What do you tend to do if you want to get hold of a book? Perhaps search online and order a copy. Maybe download an eBook instantly to your Kindle or iPad. And if you just want to try out a new book or author without the commitment of buying, there are always public libraries – with the added benefit of helpful advice from staff members. For some, though, just getting out of the house can be a challenge – and what makes it harder still is that often these are the very people who have none of those high-tech alternatives available to them. But this is where a reassuringly low-tech solution come in.
Pat Rose has been bringing books to her three clients – who she lovingly refers to as her ‘ladies’ – for three years now. ‘They don’t go out, these ladies,’ she says, ‘except to be taken shopping with their families, and one of them can’t even do that. They’re not up to speed with eBooks, Kindles and computers – none of them have any of those things – and books are expensive for someone on a pension, so what they would do without a library I don’t know.’
‘Often they haven’t got any family who can bring books to them, so they just give us an idea of what books they like and then we go and look along the shelves and hopefully get it right’!
Pat is a volunteer with Peterborough’s Library Link service – and it’s Pat herself who is that vital link between the library and the readers. ‘Often they haven’t got any family who can bring books to them,’ she says, ‘so they just give us an idea of what books they like and then we go and look along the shelves and hopefully get it right.’ They’re quick to communicate their dislikes as well. ‘One likes sagas, one doesn’t. One doesn’t like war stories. And of the three ladies who I see, not one of them wants a Mills and Boon!’
As borrowers, they’re allowed to keep the books for three months, but Pat visits on average once a month to keep them stocked with reading material. ‘One has four books, one lady is blind in one eye so she has cassettes – five of those – but the other lady is quite an avid reader and she has twelve. She finishes all those in a month.’ Sometimes Pat’s ‘ladies’ will ask for specific titles they’ve heard of, but often it’s down to her to find new books and authors. ‘In the case of the lady who reads twelve books a month, it’s quite a challenge! We’re now trying to find new authors for her. It’s a question of trying things you think they may like.’
What is so significant about Library Link is this personal nature of the service – providing someone who can be aware of your preferences, recommend similar books or authors and listen to your feedback. Smart though the internet may be, it’s still no substitute for the human touch. As it turns out, it brings other benefits which may be of even greater significance to its users. ‘You do end up staying to have a chat with them as well – you don’t just drop the books in – and they do appreciate that. I have fond memories of a couple that I would visit, delivering books to both. Sadly, her husband has now passed away, but through my previous visits we are able to remember her husband together – that is particularly special’.
‘But my ladies are always interested in what activities I’ve been doing with the children in the library, what we’ve been making – and that means they’re getting more involved in what’s going on in the community around them’
For someone who may feel rather cut off from the life of the community, this can be something of a lifeline. ‘I know about their families now,’ says Pat. ‘They know about my family, and we chat about what my children or their grandchildren have done. They like hearing the stories and having a bit of a laugh.’ Those stories often involve other projects for which Pat volunteers, which are numerous. ‘I love doing the children’s holiday events – in fact, I’m doing the Romans tomorrow at Peterborough Museum, and next week I’m building a dinosaur. I was also on the 40 Years On archives project. It’s really shown me a different side of Peterborough. I didn’t realise this much went on in the libraries. But my ladies are always interested in what activities I’ve been doing with the children in the library, what we’ve been making – and that means they’re getting more involved in what’s going on in the community around them.’
Recipients of this service certainly seem to appreciate it. ‘The lady who has twelve books lines them up on the settee in the order she thinks she’d like to read them, and she absolutely adored getting this brand new book that had never been touched. And families have passed on messages saying how grateful they are, because they haven’t got the time themselves. If you’re a reader and you couldn’t get out to get books, I just don’t know how you would cope – I know how I would feel. I just think it’s marvellous – a great service.’ But, at the end of the day, it’s people like Pat who make that service so special.
‘The service is very important to me as I love reading and couldn’t get to the library myself. I have great difficulty walking and no transport, and most of my family live out Leicester way. I like having the contact and chat, and would sorely miss the service. I would be lost without it.’
Library Link Doorstep Delivery
If you have difficulty visiting libraries, the Library Link service can help by bringing books and talking books to your home. The Library Link Co-ordinator can discuss your needs and find the best way to deliver the service to you, through the Mobile library, one of their volunteers visiting you, or by customising your Library account. To find out more, telephone the Vivacity Library Link Co-ordinator on 01733 864167, leaving your name, phone number and a short message, email or speak to a member of library staff.
If you are interested in becoming a Library Link Volunteer, you can find out more at www.vivacity-peterborough.com