Diversity & Outreach Columns ALA's Office for Diversity, Literacy and Outreach Services


We Are: One Another

Submitted by: Karen J. Maj, Librarian II, Fresno County Public Library

Community Bookmobile – Fresno, CA

*The views expressed in this posting are Karen’s views and do not reflect the views of the Fresno County or Fresno County Library.

I love bookmobile service. As librarian-driver for the Fresno County Public LibraryCommunity Bookmobile, many of the monthly bookmobile stops are visits to senior facilities which vary from nursing homes, to retirement living, to senior communities.

I got to thinking about the power of connection; how important it is for each of us and with library patrons of any age. Yet, for the moment, I would like to share with you some thoughts about serving our seniors.

There is a unique beauty in doing so. Each person: nearing a Great Change in their Life journey; so many stories of life untold. For some people, these personal changes are difficult to face while for others it is the natural course of Life.

Along with bringing library material to our patrons we also have the responsibility and the joy of offering the best, trustworthy, relaxed and honest service that we possibly can while allowing the rest to take care of itself.  Of course, I always hope patrons will check out library material and I let them know we have regular print, large print, books on CD and tape as well as other resources through our library system.

Yet, whether a patron checks out library material or not, one, they’ve made a visit to the bookmobile and two, it is the power of our Presence that is also important.

We become the senses for our patrons: taking the extra time to not just “hear” but to “listen”, making sure that we don’t just “look” but that we “see” the person we’re talking with.

This does tend to bring home the fragility of our own humanity and that of our loved ones. It is very difficult when a patron passes away; a part of me changes: a friendship in transition. A book with a title uniquely all its own, removed from the shelf, never to be replaced.

I’ve read to patrons in nursing homes and to tell you the truth, I don’t always know who’s listening, who understands, or who’s enjoying what I’ve brought to read. It was such a beautiful balmy spring day

once that a patron said “Oh! I fell asleep!” I chuckled and said “It’s that kind of day! I would too!”

Last month, a bookmobile patron invited me to have dinner with her at her retirement facility which I was pleased to accept. To my delight:  9 bookmobile patrons were at the table! I was presented with a card of thanks and a lovely pen. I am being thanked….for the work I love to do….but I couldn’t love my work without my patrons.

Today, while thinking about this article, I checked the mail and received a card from one of our bookmobile nursing home stops: a card of appreciation and thanks for all we do. How sweet to be given a gift from the heart and also when least expected!

In conclusion, there is also the rural setting and after pulling up to one of the mountain bookmobile stops, a lady called out “Oh you’re here! You didn’t forget me!” And you know? What she said really hit home for me:  Being There. It’s so much more than just being part of the schedule and bringing material to people, isn’t it?  How fortunate we are to make a difference and to give people who, whether living with friends, or, whether living alone, the opportunity for something to look forward to:

“Oh you’re here! You didn’t forget me!”

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