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Longview Library delivers books to the homebound

December 30, 2018

LONGVIEW, Wash. (AP) — Carolyn Feasey-Kirkpatrick’s mom, a first grade teacher, taught her to read at age 2.

“She said reading was the basis of everything: If you couldn’t read, you didn’t know the truth,” Feasey-Kirkpatrick said earlier this month in her room at Longview’s Canterbury Park.

These days, 85-year-old Feasey-Kirkpatrick struggles to maintain a supply of reading material. She doesn’t drive anymore after a serious hit-and-run accident 18 months ago, which makes it hard to get to the Longview Public Library.

Luckily for her, a group of librarians and volunteers are working together to bring books, CDs, audio books, DVDs and music to about 100 homebound Longview residents, including Feasey-Kirkpatrick.

“To go out, for me, is a lot of energy. With this program, I can use my energy instead to help others and read, which I love to do,” said Feasey-Kirkpatrick, who is active with the Salvation Army.

Longview Library Technician Sandra Glassett coordinates about eight volunteers to bring bags of requested and recommended items to people at retirement communities, nursing homes and individual residences. Some participants need only a couple books each month, while others need as many as 20, Glassett said.

One recipient, Leta Boyer, has read more than 17,500 books through the program since 2002, when program officials started keeping records.

“She’s kept me on my toes,” Glassett said with a laugh.

Other libraries have similar programs, but Glasset said Longview’s is different. Whereas other libraries drop off books, Glassett and volunteers sit down one-on-one with each participant to get to know them and learn their literary preferences. Then they recommend books based on each individual’s interests.

“This helps us keep track of them individually and how they’re doing,” Glassett said. “We have a personal interest in them, also. This service is about library materials, but it’s a very personal service.”

The program has been around since at least the 1970s, Glassett said, but she took over in 1991.

Some participants, like Pat Riffe, have been getting books from her for more than a decade.

Riffe said she has bonded with Glassett over books during the last 18 years. She and her husband, former Longview Finance Director Tom Riffe, were avid readers and looked forward to Glassett’s selections, she said. Tom Riffe died last year.

Although she said her husband was a little pickier, Riffe reads anything Glassett brings her. She’s told many other residents in Canterbury Park about the program.

“It’s a great program because most of us in here don’t have cars. It’s nice to have books brought to us,” Riffe said.

Those who are interested must apply by showing they live within city limits and say why they need the service.

Longview has a lot of senior citizens and modern medicine means that people are living longer, Glassett said. As a result, there is an increasing demand for library delivery services.

However, due to budget uncertainty, Glassett said she isn’t taking any more people at the moment. There are about 10 people on the waiting list.

The Longview City Council last week approved a 2019-2020 budget that included an 11.4 percent cut to the library. The outreach program to homebound people was not included on a list of library programs that could be cut, but Glassett said it is still unclear how her program will be affected.

Sara Hamilton, 91, said the library delivery program “saved (her) life.”

Hamilton moved to Canterbury Park four years ago. At that time, she could still read large-print books, but her eyesight continued to deteriorate and now she relies on audiobooks.

“I do hope this program continues because it is so important to me that I can still read books about the world,” she said. “Sometimes (Glassett) brings me books that make me think she thinks I’m capable of understanding difficult things, which is reassuring.”

Hamilton, a former nurse, said she likes historical books about China from authors such as Lisa See and Amy Tan.

“I’ll never finish all these books that I want to read in my lifetime, but it won’t be for you not bringing them to me,” Hamilton said to Glassett, laughing.

The delivery service is also an opportunity for elderly residents to have social interaction, Glassett said.

“The people I have met through the years on this program, it’s been amazing,” Glassett said. “I have one of the best jobs. I get to meet these people and lot of these people have been major contributors to this community: doctors, lawyers, teachers. Now it’s our turn to service these people.”

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