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Sunday, May 1, 2016

An appetite for books - Homebound delivery builds connections through literature

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Noema Prieksat sits in her favorite reading chair at Prime Assisted Living in Le Mars. She said there were initially lots of residents who received books through the public library's homebound delivery program. However, as residents have moved on or passed away, she is the only one still receiving books. To purchase this photo, log on to www.lemarssentinel.com.
Mary Herbst drove past Cleveland Park and eased her car up the driveway of a cozy brick house.

Herbst stepped out of her vehicle.

She lifted a heavy tote off the seat.

Leonard Kramer has participated in the Le Mars Public Library's Homebound Delivery program more than three months. "He's a voracious reader," said volunteer Mary Herbst, who brings Kramer books each month. In addition to the tomes Herbst delivers, Kramer said he enjoys rereading books from his personal collection of about 200 books. To purchase this photo, log on to www.lemarssentinel.com.
As she climbed the cement stoop, the front door opened.

Herbst was ushered inside.

Seated at a table adjacent to the entryway, Leonard Kramer was eager to see the bag of books Herbst brought him this month.

Kramer, 92, has been receiving books for about 15 weeks through the Le Mars Public Library's Homebound Delivery program.

Library Director Sue Kroesche said the program is modeled after other libraries' and such programs are "not terribly unusual."

Volunteers connect library patrons with literature through monthly book deliveries to readers' homes.

"I know there are people who are out there who have a need for this," Kroesche said. "People who love to read and can't get to the library for whatever reason."

Any patron within the city limits who is homebound is eligible -- including people who are temporarily disabled, she noted.

"It's not just seniors," Kroesche said. "You could be 16 years old and stuck at home not able to get out, and your parents work."

Books are delivered the last Tuesday of the month, where a volunteer will swap them out with the previous month's delivery.

A nice thing about home delivery, Kroesche said, is there aren't any late fees since the library is in charge of pickup and delivery.

Currently, either Kroesche or Herbst do the transporting.

Herbst has volunteered with the program for about two years.

She got in touch with Le Mars library staff after reading an article about a volunteer who delivered books on behalf of Sioux City libraries.

Herbst said volunteering is meaningful, particularly because she likes people who like books.

"When you read a book you want to talk to somebody about it," Herbst said.

Oftentimes, she has read some of the books she has delivered to patrons, which provides opportunities for conversation.

Having the time to make those connections is important to her.

"I feel bad because the people who do Meals on Wheels have to move on a set schedule to get people their meals and keep them hot," Herbst said. "But people that don't get out like to talk. What I like with this -- there's no rush."

During her visits, Herbst brings Kramer about six books.

"You're biographies all the way, this month," Herbst remarked as she spread the volumes across the table.

Kramer is a bibliophile and has been a reader since his childhood during the 1920s.

"The Saturday Evening Post was a big thing when I was a small kid," he said.

Kramer has not driven a car since 2011, and his wife Betty does not care to beyond her weekly trip to the grocery store.

On a visit to Le Mars, Kramer's daughter enrolled him in the program.

He averages a book -- several hundred pages long -- every five days.

Kramer estimates he has read a little over 20 books under the program so far.

He loves all types of books, but biographies are his favorite.

Kramer said library staff have been very good at making selections.

He rates the service "four out of five, and that ain't too bad."

Kramer has only left one book unfinished.

"I read 100 pages, and it was so darn dull I couldn't take anymore," he said.

Kroesche said the library selects books by request and trial and error.

"I have a questionnaire for people," she said. "They can tell me what they're interested in."

Patrons may specify a genre -- non-fiction, romance or sci-fi, for instance -- or they can leave book selection up to library staff.

"I've had people say, 'Oh, whatever you pick is fine,' which makes it harder," she said, laughing.

Noema Prieksat, 89, said library staff are very good at filling her requests for specific books.

The South Dakota native currently lives at Park Place Estates in Le Mars.

She said she has always been an avid reader, as has her family.

"My kids have gotten books from the library since the time they were little," Prieksat said. "We'd go to the library every week it seemed like."

Prieksat loves detective stories -- "mystery and intrigue," she added.

"Nobody will want to get on your bad side because you'll be able to get away with it," Herbst joked during her delivery to Prieksat.

Herbst brings Prieksat about six or seven books, but Prieksat chuckles at the idea they are supposed to last for a month.

Her daughters help supplement her appetite for the written word by sending her additional books.

The way Herbst put it: "She has her own (collection) on the side."

So far, the homebound delivery program serves three patrons.

Deliveries are also made to Park Place Estates for use by all residents, according to Kroesche.

She said the library has plenty of room to deliver to more patrons.

People interested in receiving book deliveries should give the library a call at 546-5004.

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