For “pioneering a role in offering innovative library services that deliver miraculous outcomes for their homebound populations,” the Queens Library was the recipient of a national award.
Queens Library’s Mail-A-Book Program was named the 2011 winner of the American Library Association’s Association of Specialized and Cooperative Library Agencies (ASCLA), Keystone Library Automation System (KLAS) and the National Organization on Disability (NOD) Award for its creative interactive programming for homebound library users. The program was singled out from nominees from across the country.
“Using an abundance of creativity and imagination, the caring staff of the Queens Library Mail-A-Book program used low-cost, interactive technology (teleconferencing equipment with an 800 number) to enrich the lives of persons with disabilities in their community,” said ASCLA President Diana Reese. “They put their hearts into leaping over physical and attitudinal barriers and making the total services of the Queens Library more accessible.”
Queens Library, located in Jamaica, has long had a free service that mails books, videos, audio books and other library materials to library users who cannot travel to the library.
In 2010, the staff began a pilot program to invite their homebound library users to share programs via telephone console through a toll-free phone number. Participants call in at the appointed times, and are able to converse with the library staff and the other participants. The theory behind the program was to reach many homebound customers who feel isolated, bored and starved for peer relationships. The pilot was funded by the Harry and Jeanette Weinberg Foundation.
The events calendar includes twice-weekly chats. Library staff members facilitate the conversations. The phone-in participants form strong bonds and enjoy new friendships for which they are very hungry.
“They [those who participate in the telephone conversations] even have an occasional luncheon. The participants, even though they have never met in person, greet each other as if they were best friends,” said Joanne King, spokesperson for the library.
The Mail-A-Book staff held special phone-in sessions on New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day. There is also a Facebook interface. Some programming is intergenerational. Homebound residents who are interested in borrowing free books, audio books and videos in any language, or who would like to join the call-in programs, are invited to phone 718-776-6800 for more information.
The presentation of the award will be made during the annual conference of the American Library Association in June 2011. The award consists of a $1,000 honorarium and a citation.
“The real reward comes from being able to serve homebound library customers in new and better ways. It is our hope that the publicity we get form winning the award will make more people contact the program to enrich their lives,” said King.