EBCL brings the library to area seniors
Area residents check out the offerings from the East Bonner County Library District that brought to their facility as part of the library district's outreach program.
(Photo courtesy EAST BONNER COUNTY LIBRARY DISTRICT)
A resident checks out books available as part of the East Bonner County Library District's outreach program.
An area resident proudly shows off the hat she won as part of a trivia contest — one of the many activities incorporated into the East Bonner County Library District's outreach program.
Staff Writer | February 19, 2023 1:00 AM
SANDPOINT — Can't make it to the library? The library will come to you.
Over the past six months, the East Bonner County Library District has relaunched its outreach program, taking resources to those who might not be able to make it to the library.
The program, which started at the Sandpoint Senior Center, brings books, music and other library materials to those who might be unable to make it into the library through the efforts of EBCL outreach coordinator Andrea Evans.
"If I can make the difference in someone's day, someone that would normally have been isolated otherwise, that's huge," Evans said. "And so I hope, there's a ripple effect of that, and that's truly all it is. It's not finding the right book for the person that will love it. It's connecting."
Evans has been visiting the senior center for about six months, visiting the Sandpoint facility every other Wednesday. Soon, the Woodland Crossing and Sixth Street senior apartment complexes followed, as did the Bridge Assisted Living. Evans said she would love to see more outreach locations and reach even more people.
Each time she leaves the library, her cart is loaded with books, music, CDs and more. Some are the always-present craft books and cookbooks, regular requests; others are items based on past conversations.
"It's anything that they might kind of dig," she said of what she packs into the crates. "I make an effort to connect with them and kind of get to know them. And then as soon as I know something about a person that maybe hasn't used my services, I'll come back with a book they will love, you know. I've gotten a couple to participate in my adventures there just because I brought something we talked about in a book form. So I'm shameless that way."
Some of the items may be as simple as a craftpaper to make an origami creation. Others might be a book on CD or an mp3-type device.
While she tries to streamline the crates, only taking what she needs, Evans laughed as she admitted it never seems to quite work out the way she thinks. There is always one more book, one more item that a library patron may connect with and so, more often than not, she brings it along.
In addition to eight crates packed full of books of every genre and other library materials, Evans said she brings puzzles, trivia quizzes and STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts and math) activities designed to engage her patrons.
She makes note of conversations and interests, making sure to bring items matching those along with her the next time she comes. A conversation with one patron led to a theme day of everything from aliens and UFOs to crop circles and cryptozoology.
"That one was huge," Evans said. "And it all came from just a lady asking me for a book about Sasquatch. I could have just brought a book but it was so fun and it really engaged a large population from the senior center to all over the place."
She has learned, she added, to not worry if anyone shows up — or if they borrow any books. What matters are the connections that she makes.
"I might not have anybody show up at all this, but I truly just enjoy the process," Evans said. "I've learned that patience is key, and not to be too attached to the outcome, rather, just enjoy the process — and if one or two people come in, and we connect and engage and they're happy, then that makes it worthwhile."
Evans, who has lived in Sandpoint for more than 30 years, said she has been self-employed for most of that time. She wanted, she said, to do something different. Obsessed with "living in a bus someday," Evans said she happened across the job for helping with the bookmobile.
"I jumped at it and I just can't believe I get paid to do something where I'm having way too much fun doing … it truly feeds a part of me that I never really tapped into to help the community."
The job quickly became a "later-in-life career" and Evans said she is constantly exploring new ways to improve and expand the program. There are plans to add signs and slowly, but surely, the word is spreading and the outreach programs are beginning to attract a few regulars. Evans said there isn't any place that she won't consider adding to the program as an option to bring the library to the community's residents.
"Ultimately my goal is to find those people that are stuck at home, that can't get to the library or have no one to bring them anything from the library," she said. "We have miles of rural areas where I believe there's quite a large population of people that would really benefit from this."
What she loves about the program, Evans said, is that there is no limit to the people she can reach — or help.
"The premise is that if you have no other means, we absolutely want to come to you with the library," she added.
She loves that the STEAM aspect of the outreach helps people like her mom, who is struggling with dementia. The resources that she, and other outreach coordinators, can bring to patrons are often already available at the library through its children's programs.
"There are so many tools and resources that we can utilize things like STEAM that we're already using for children's programs are so beneficial to seniors," she added. "So the more I learned, the more webinars they let me take, the more information I get, the more I realized that so many simple things we can do make a huge impact because most of it is just connecting with them and getting them to connect and maybe move around, move their hands and then connect with other people and not feel so isolated."
Evans said she doesn't focus on a result; instead, it's making connections, being there, and creating a "ripple effect of wonderfulness." She loves the idea of incorporating the library's virtual reality into something for area seniors, allowing them to once again visit the museums or places of their youth.
The response to the program has been immediate, with many seniors letting library staff and board members know how much they love the program. With many seniors not doing any more driving than necessary, Evans said they are deeply appreciative of the library coming to them, of keeping them connected to the world — from books to music to movies.
The program encompasses more than just entertainment — it makes information, resources and tools accessible to the seniors, connecting them to the community's youth and vice versa.
If the East Bonner County Library District doesn't have a desired item or book, Evans said she taps into the inter-library loan program to find something on a requested subject.
Residents can log onto the library's website and download an intake form to see if they qualify for its homebound delivery service as well as a schedule of when it will be at one of the facilities it currently visits.
"Homebound could be anyone suffering from a medical condition, loss of mobility and unable to make it to the library, such as new moms, patients recovering from surgery, or anyone with a permanent physical disability or chronic illness," Evans said. "I am eager to meet them and bring materials to their home - anywhere within the library district."
Information: East Bonner County Library District, 208-263-6930, ext. 1281; or online at ebonnerlibrary.org/audience/seniors