DeKALB – Rosa Ramon used to go the library, but these days the library comes to her.
Bad knees and ankles make getting around difficult for Ramon, 58, of DeKalb. But thanks to Beatrice O’Connell, she doesn’t need to walk to the library to get what she wants.
Ramon is among dozens of patrons who receive books, movies and music from the library through its free Outreach Services program. The program, available to registered library patrons, is one of the few in the county and typically benefits the homebound or physically disabled.
O’Connell said she always meets new people who have a story to share. Once she gets to know them, she tries to find books she thinks will suit them.
“I understand what they feel, and I try my best to bring what they want,” she said.
The Kirkland and Sycamore public libraries offer similar services on an informal basis upon request.
“It’s just more like a public service, because some of our patrons are older and can’t get out,” Kirkland Public Library Director Linda Fett said.
The Outreach Services program at the DeKalb Public Library started in the 1970s after library leaders applied for and received a grant, O’Connell said. The program was successful enough to become permanent.
Several times a week, O’Connell will travel in her car to nursing homes, retirement centers and homes in DeKalb to deliver library items. Some of the places she visits include the Barb City Manor, Golden Years Plaza and Bethany Health Care & Rehabilitation Center. She’ll deliver books – mostly large print books – music, movies and magazines.
Although the job is demanding, O’Connell has developed strong relationships with many of her patrons. Ramon says O’Connell is like a sister and doesn’t know what she would do if she had to use an outreach program at another library.
“She thinks just like me, and she knows what I like,” Ramon said.
Louise Derix, 84, began using the program about five years ago and now discusses much more than books, including food and recipes, with O’Connell.
“I think it’s a wonderful program with a wonderful person ahead of it,” she said.
O’Connell is the only library staff member assigned to the program, but she does accept volunteers. She said she’s never out of people who want to use the library delivery service.
“I wish we almost had more [clients] because I think people sometimes don’t know we have that program,” she said.