Librarian Tracey Woosley discusses the Library's Home Delivery Service – what she describes as 'our best kept secret'...
Our Best Kept Secret
I recently attended a conference celebrating the 70th anniversary of Hackney Borough's Community Library Service.
The service was originally created in 1949 in order to deliver books to the people of the East End of London whose lives and homes had been devasted by WWII. Collections of books were also sent to evacuated children in the countryside and to local air raid shelters, providing a valuable service for the community.
Over the years this service has grown to become the largest home delivery service in London, delivering to more than 700 people of all ages and their carers who, due to ill health or mobility issues, are unable to visit the library themselves. In addition to providing library materials the team also delivers leaflets with information about other local services for those unable to access online resources. By taking the library out into the community the library team are able to provide a valuable lifeline for isolated people.
I was lucky enough to visit Hackney library last year and their Home Delivery Service is the inspiration for our own fledgling service.
A service of our own
For some time here at the Guille-Allès we've been keen to set up a Home Delivery Service for people unable to visit the library because of illness or mobility issues.
Early last year we had the opportunity to get things started. A local charity, which provides financial assistance for projects helping older adults, agreed to sponsor us for a pilot scheme lasting one year. This allowed us to set up the service and to employ an additional member of staff working one day a week.
The service proved to be so popular that we quickly reached full capacity and soon needed to start a waiting list for those wanting to use the service. We were fortunate, at this point, to receive additional funding allowing us to double the hours of our service which was a great help.
Our Home Delivery Service is completely free with no overdue fees or worries about returning the books on time; we appreciate that reading is not always the main priority in people's lives. When a new reader contacts us we arrange a visit to discuss their specific likes and dislikes. In this way we can put together a collection of suitable items to deliver to them, making sure that the service is a personal one, meeting their own particular needs. We can then build up a picture of the specific requirements of each reader, visit by visit, so that everyone receives items that they will enjoy.
We visit both individual and care homes on a rota every three weeks, or less frequently if required, delivering books, audiobooks, DVDs and jigsaw puzzles, in fact the entire library stock. Working in partnership with the Guernsey Blind Association we have also recently started to provide USB sticks loaded with audiobooks, along with special USB players, for those with limited vision.
We're also happy to purchase items for readers if there is a book or any other item they'd like to borrow that we don't already have at the Library.
It's not all about the books
As well as delivering library related items, our home delivery assistant has also been called upon for additional extras such as IT help, collecting wool and the occasional deadheading of flowers! Clearly it isn't just all about the books: it's well established that social interaction can enhance well-being and may help improve, or even prevent, various medical conditions.
We've had some lovely comments from users of the service: one person said that it had made a real difference to her friend's quality of life, while another told us that is was nice to know that some organisations hadn't forgotten about them.
At the end of the year-long pilot scheme we could clearly see the benefits of such a service and were grateful to be able to maintain it at its current level. It is inevitable that the need for such a service will only increase: statistics suggest that by 2050 over 30% of Guernsey's population will be 65 years or older, and we would like to be able to continue to meet that growing demand. The challenges facing an increasingly ageing population, such as dementia, isolation and the digital divide, mean that this service could become an important way of preventing isolation and loneliness in our community while also providing support and helpful links to other local organisations.
In the future we hope that the Home Delivery Service is no longer our best kept secret. We would love to be able to promote the service fully and expand it so that it runs along the same lines as Hackney's service, benefitting our community as a whole. As well as providing the service to older adults we would aim to include deliveries to people of all ages and their carers, providing a lifeline for those unable to get out and about themselves.
A valuable service
We believe that the service is such a valuable one. It goes some way to help reduce social isolation and encourage mental stimulation, which in the long-term have both been shown to improve quality of life. The public library has both the material resources and experienced staff necessary to provide this service, which can contribute to the mental and physical well-being of those who are the most vulnerable in our community, and address some of the issues that will affect many of us in later life.
For more information about the Guille Alles Home Delivery Service please contact Tracey Woosley at firstname.lastname@example.org