What is the Home Library Service?
Our Home Library Service is a special monthly service which reaches out into the heart of our community. It is here for residents who, because of age or health, are unable to visit their local library, or to have somebody visit one on their behalf. Although a large number of residents using this service are elderly, people of any age may and do use it.
This is how it works:
Once you have been accepted for our Home Library Service, you will be contacted by a member of staff from your local library who will ask you about any reading or listening preferences you may have, and how many items you would like to read/listen to each month – there is an upper limit of 30. Using this as a guide, we then make our selection for you.
Heather, who is among the library staff choosing items for our Home Library Service, explains what happens next:
“Getting the right book in the hands of the right person is crucial! … We find out the format of material [our readers] feel comfortable borrowing. We offer large print, audiobooks, paperback and hardback fiction and non-fiction titles as well as a digital library where eBooks, audiobooks, music, newspapers and magazines can be accessed via a computer or phone. [Visit our digital library here.] The new borrower is added to the Home Library Delivery list, whose needs will be covered by the nearest library.
“Book bundles are packed into special blue library bags and are ready to be collected by our wonderful library volunteers [who] kindly offer their own time and transportation to deliver library material to the Borough’s homebound customers. They drop off new books and collect material which has been read and (hopefully) enjoyed from the previous month. This is an opportunity to check in with our readers and also to receive requests for certain book titles and sometimes suggestions, if we haven’t quite hit the brief!”
Over time, our library staff form a pretty good idea of what borrowers will like, anticipating their needs by reserving suitable titles spotted online, or by putting items to one side during the course of their daily duties. Heather concludes, “We build a relationship with our home delivery customers through literature, as a lot of times we never get the opportunity to meet them in person.”
It is our team of Library Volunteers who have the most regular contact with our borrowers, and without whom the Home Library Service could not exist. At the same time each month our volunteers deliver and collect bundles of library items from housebound borrowers – often taking time to have a chat as well.
As Gill, one of our volunteers, writes:
“Having spent more than 40 years working for the library service, it seemed a logical step in retirement to join the volunteers who deliver books to the housebound. I had seen the care with which library staff selected books for their housebound customers, and it’s such a worthwhile job being the one who brings those books to their doorsteps! Apart from knowing that my visits are appreciated, it also gives me quite a workout – with my faithful shopping trolley it is just about possible to deliver to my current borrowers on foot, and I clock up nearly four miles, or well over 9,000 steps. Impressive, huh? Then I go and spoil it with a coffee and a bun…”
The support and feedback our libraries have from our volunteers is invaluable. Some of our borrowers who are housebound may feel particularly isolated, and this is where a visit from a friendly volunteer can make all the difference.
As our volunteer Brenda writes:
“I believe the library service overall is an essential and valuable part of our community, so it is important to make sure all members of the community can access it.
“I am more than happy to be part of the home delivery service. Books, whether written or as audios are just wonderful; they can transport you somewhere else, provide intellectual stimulation, keep you in touch, educate, provide a talking point. One of my neighbours who is clinically very vulnerable has been pretty much isolated until very recently and our discussions about books read or to be read has been the core of our telephone contact during this time.
“My mother was housebound during the later years of her life and I know books were a great source of companionship to her – she was fortunate and had family and friends often popping by with books for her, but not all are as fortunate and that was also a thought that made me volunteer for the service.”
If you are interested in becoming a Home Library Service volunteer, you can find details and current vacancies on our website.
The advent of the COVID-19 pandemic last year had a significant impact on our Home Library Service. Before the lockdown of March 2020, the borough-wide number of borrowers who regularly used the service was 83; however, by the end of the first lockdown this had increased by around 50%, to 131 borrowers.1
These were exceptional circumstances – a great number of people being effectively “housebound” on a national scale, and many were shielding.2 While Richmond’s in-house library services during this time were limited, because of necessity, our Home Library Service proved able to carry on – with a few alterations. In the absence of our regular volunteers, a core team of Library Staff, assisted by Gavin – our Library Courier Driver – stepped in to make the deliveries throughout this difficult time.3
I will end with some of the wonderful comments about the Home Library Service we have had from our borrowers, showing not only how greatly the work and dedication of our library staff and volunteers is valued, but also how the service has helped, and given comfort and support throughout these uncertain times:
“Thank you for the opportunity to tell you how wonderful your home library service is! I need large print to read, and was able to find very few of these on the shelves due to lack of space. May I also thank the marvellous staff who so kindly deliver the books in all weathers. Unfortunately with my stick I find it unsafe to travel on the bus.
“Again, many thanks to you all who chose the books I enjoy so much.”
“I would like to thank Heather at Hampton Library for setting up the library service for me. I was not aware of the wonderful home delivery service that exists, and the volunteers that come every month. I enjoy reading, and the books they have chosen I have enjoyed. Without this service I would be lost.”
“I recently started using the Home Library Service and it’s been wonderful! I email what books I’d like reserved for the next month, and as there is a much higher upper limit for reservations, I’m able to read more books each month! And it’s so convenient to have them dropped off on my doorstep while the previous month’s books are collected. I’m very grateful for this service and for Willow at Hampton Library who is my liaison. Willow also let me know about the library’s eBook borrowing service which I’d not been aware of! Many, many thanks to you all!”
“I would just say that I feel extremely lucky that Richmond Libraries offer such a service, and from what I’ve experienced so far, it’s really easy.
“Before becoming housebound, I used to visit a library frequently. I made good use of the ability to reserve and renew books, and I’m really pleased that I can still do this.”
“Heather, at Hampton Library, has been so wonderful in arranging books for me to read through the Home Library Service. I have mobility issues and am very restricted in my day, but am really grateful for my monthly visit and new audiobooks to look forward to. My sincerest thanks for this service that has been a constant through lockdown.”
“I am responding on behalf of my mum Lily who is now 96 and does not now leave her flat except for medical reasons so the library service you provide is a great boon to her.
“She has never been disappointed with the books you supply month on month.
“So thank you very much.”
“I am obviously very pleased to receive the home delivery but the most interesting thing for me is that the library staff know what I like but include books of their choice. I found most of their selection very interesting and got to know authors I hadn’t read before. Would also like to say the library staff are my favourite people.”
“I have been shielding now for a year and eight months and cannot safely use the library building. I would like to say how much I appreciate the monthly deliveries you have put in place for me. Since I may very well be in self-isolation for many more months, it is a great consolation to read new books and use the other services you offer online. I can also request books of particular interest and you will search for them. This service is one you should be justly proud of.”
How to Join
There is no charge to use the Home Library Service, and if you would like to join, or know of someone who does, you can email us at firstname.lastname@example.org, telephone your local library, or write to: Library Headquarters, The Cottage, Little Green, Richmond, TW9 1QH.
- Data provided by Darren Morris, Library Supervisor, Twickenham Cluster.
- Interestingly, the number of people reading books increased nationally during this period. In a survey conducted by the Reading Agency it was found that nearly 1 in 3 (31%) of people read more books during lockdown, and there was also a “surge” in book sales for novels about fictional epidemics – such as Nathan P. Wolfe’s Viral Storm, and Albert Camus’ The Plague – of 1393.2%! (‘New Survey says reading connects a Nation in Lockdown,’ Populus Omnibus Survey, 15-16 April 2020.)
- Another service which increased during the lockdowns were Richmond’s online eServices, seeing a rise of 133% in eBook issues, 95% in eAudio issues, and 184% in eMagazine and eNewspaper issues. (2019-21.) (Figures provided by Cheney Gardner, Head of Libraries, Richmond and Wandsworth Councils.)
With special thanks to everyone involved in helping me with my Blog.
Lucy Hawkins, Library Assistant