Celebrating a decade of delivery service

For 10 years, neither snow nor rain nor fire could stop the Shelton Library system’s homebound delivery service people from the completion of their appointed rounds — bringing the gift of reading to their patrons.

The homebound delivery service is a program where staff from the Shelton libraries deliver books to their subscribers who, for various reasons, are not able to get to a library but would like to continue to read, said Branch Director Marcia Austin.

“The library recognized that there were many residents in Shelton who, because of disabilities, illness or lack of transportation, were unable to visit a library and continue their joy of reading,” said Austin. “If you are a reader and you are unable to get to a library, it can be very hard. All of us (who work at the library) feel that these visits are important to help many of our residents keep mentally active and to get a chance to chat for a few minutes with a friendly face.”

According to Austin, if the pilot program, created by former Branch Director Shawn Fields, started on schedule, this January marks the 10th anniversary. Over the past decade, books have been delivered biweekly to 40 Shelton residents who either use the program while recovering from an illness, surgery or long-term disability.  

Right now, the program has four library staff members who cater to 18 people, Scott Brill, circulation supervisor at the Huntington Branch Library, said. Brill and Austin pick out books based on the readers’ tastes, which can take up to four hours, to select the perfect ones.

“(We) have all of our members fill out a couple of surveys, which helps us determine what kinds of books they might enjoy,” said Austin. “Some members need large print books. Some may request a specific title or author and others may enjoy mysteries.

“In the 10 years that I have been doing this, we may have had a half dozen books selected that turned out to be off the mark. For the most part, we get to know people's tastes fairly well,” added Austin.

After the books are selected, two staff members from Plumb Memorial Library — Bob Antaramian and John Sembrat — drive to deliver them, then later pick them up.

Antaramian said that he is motivated to deliver books to the patrons, even in crazy situations.

“Our purpose [is to] satisfy the needs for people who can’t come to the library,” Antaramian said. “The show must go on. We don’t like to disappoint people.”  

In 2017, the van that Antaramian and Sembrat were driving while doing their rounds erupted in flames yet, Antaramian recalled that they were determined to save the books and to continue the route.

“(It was a) total loss but, luckily, we parked it. (There was) no damage to books or anyone,” Antaramian said. “We do have another vehicle now and are back in business.”

One member, Pauline Mas, who will turn 91 next month, is thankful for the hard work all the library staff put into picking out and delivering the books, she said. She uses the service to help her keep reading despite her arthritis that prevents her from walking to the library.

Her favorite books are classic mysteries, and she doesn’t get any of those “mushy romance” books, Mas said.  The librarians do a good job of picking out the right books for her.

“If you like to read, it’s a godsend, I swear,” Mas said. “(I am) not a big TV watcher, (so) give me a book and I’m in seventh heaven.”

Overall, the homebound delivery service is so well loved because people of all ages love reading, Brill said.

“Books are so powerful because they can transport someone to a different and compelling place and time,” said Brill, “all in the comfort of their own home.”

Huntington Library Branch Director Marcia Austin and Circulation Supervisor Scott Brill with books that will be delivered to Shelton residents. — Brian Gioiele photo