Hennepin County residents who cannot get to a library building due to illness, disability, or visual impairment have another option for gaining access to the incredible resources the library offers. At Home Services sends materials—books, DVDs, CDs, audiobooks, large print books—directly to patrons’ homes. Beyond just library materials, this service also provides something less tangible but just as important: a connection.
"You connect me, along with my family, to the outside world. I thought your services and expertise were important before – but now, in the COVID 19 pandemic & lockdown – you all are essential and lifesaving. My gratitude is infinite. Thank you so very much.”
With patrons continuing to stay socially and physically distanced, their movements even more limited than before, the social interaction that At Home Services provides has become even more essential. The challenge facing At Home Services is balancing the importance of the physical safety of patrons, many of whom are in high-risk categories for the coronavirus, while also recognizing the increased importance of staying engaged and connected to their library lifeline. Thankfully, the talented Outreach team has come up with some lifechanging solutions.
“It has been such a blessing to have good reading materials this year when I haven't been able to go out due to Covid concerns. We have also enjoyed the Hennepin County fun pages that come with our books. My housemate is now in a motorized wheelchair and has very limited mobility. Thank you for this bright spot in her day.”
Reaching Across the Distance
When the lockdown began in spring 2020, Outreach staff organized a group of librarians to call senior patrons in areas of the county defined as high risk for COVID, according to demographic indicators like age, income, and race. Staff members called more than 3,350 patrons to establish a connection and inform them about the resources and services available through the library. Since the pandemic began, library staff has mailed 160+ items per day to more than 200 patrons every week.
“Having just finished my last book from you, I was feeling bereft without anything to read. And then, another package from you. It's like the sun came out. I hope you know how much you mean to me.”
Clubs and Calls
The library doesn’t stop at simply sending out materials to patrons. The outreach team has also established new programs and bolstered old favorites to make sure every patron feels connected. Book clubs in senior residence facilities have been more popular than ever this past year, with 46 book clubs served, an increase of 28% over last year. The library also increased their collection of high-quality book club kits, containing large-print and audio books, as well as regular print and discussion guides. Book club kits have been checked out more than 170 times so far in 2021.
The library also offers an over-the-phone book club and has added an over-the-phone story – an audio story recorded weekly. Patrons call the phone line, listen to a 15–25-minute story, then leave a response if they so desire. Since its inception, nearly 1,000 listeners have tuned in.
“It felt like the mailman was Santa today, and all of these goods from the library are a most lovely present! I love it! I live alone and have no family, so lonesome and boredom kind of dominate my days. I am going to enjoy this packet so much. Thank you, all, for all that you do.”
Keeping Patrons Connected to Their Whole Selves
The library is committed to supporting the lifesaving programs like At Home Services, and Friends of HCL stands alongside them. In 2021, Friends is donating $350,000 toward community outreach to fund programs like At Home Services. The livelihood and quality of life of so many patrons depend on the support of donors like you. As one patron shared, “If not for this amazing service, I'd be left adrift with no land in sight.”