A new Yolo County program aims to brighten the lives of the area’s most isolated residents by loaning them books, delivered straight to their mailboxes.
Starting this month, people who cannot visit a library due to illness, disability or a lack of transportation can access their favorite books, magazines and DVDs free of charge without leaving their homes or residential facilities.
People interested in using the Yolo County Library’s “books by mail” service must call the library and fill out an application to make sure they qualify. Once approved, library members can request anything in the collection, and library staff will send it to their home address in a prepaid, reusable canvas book mailer. Library staff can also select books for participants based on their interests. Residents can keep items for up to four weeks before renewing them or sending them back.
In the past, people who couldn’t make it to a library would ask friends and family to pick things up for them, said Yolo County librarian Joan Tuss, who is running the new program. In some cases, Tuss and other library staff members would set aside time from their own schedules to make in-person deliveries, she said.
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Now, with an $8,000 grant from the federal Institute of Museum and Library Services, Tuss and her fellow librarians can support a formal books by mail program through the next 12 months. When the funding runs out, the county plans to continue offering the service. Organizers hope that the program will reach 50 to 70 people per year.
“This was an effort for us as a community to be more thorough,” Tuss said. “It’s a more well-rounded, extensive, authoritative program that has the blessings of leadership and administrators and a grant to provide the services.”
Seniors will likely be the prime audience for the service, though it will also be helpful for children in home hospital settings and people with an illness or injury that prevents them from driving, Tuss said. Anticipating interest from the community, Tuss and other librarians have increased the stock of large print materials and ordered a subscription to The New York Times in large print.
Tuss is especially concerned about older people who live in isolated areas of Yolo County far from any library branch. The county’s senior population increased by 16 percent from 2010 to 2014, and by over 40 percent in the rural areas of Winters and Esparto, according to census data.
Older adults, especially those who live alone, may be more prone to depression than younger people, especially if they have a chronic health condition or have experienced the death of a loved one, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. They are also less likely than younger people to seek treatment.
Some research has shown that reading books can alleviate anxiety and depression by providing a distraction and a sense of calm.
Sheila Allen, executive director of the Yolo Healthy Aging Alliance, said the books by mail service will make a huge difference for the seniors she works with.
“Participating in reading helps you to escape to places all around the world,” she said. “ It’s a great opportunity for people to have something to do … for people who can’t get out to be more connected to the world through literature.”
To find out more about the books by mail program, call 530-757-5580 or email BooksbyMail@yolocounty.org.