Verna DeLuca is an avid reader. Mysteries, mostly - the gorier, the better, she says. But while the library isn't far from her Mays Landing home, DeLuca can't get there.
DeLuca is partially paralyzed and confined to a wheelchair, and at 81 years old, this combination of factors means she's homebound. But if she can't get to the library, no matter - the library comes to her.
DeLuca has been a regular patron of the library's Books by Mail program since she moved to New Jersey nearly two decades ago, saying it has been an invaluable service for her.
"They're a godsend," DeLuca said. "I don't know what I would do without Books by Mail."
The service was established in 1982 as a way to serve the growing number of seniors in Atlantic County, many of whom can't get to the library, as well as the area's graveyard shift workers whose schedules preclude their picking up books in person, Outreach Services Section Manager Mary Beth Fine said.
The service, based out of the Mays Landing branch of the Atlantic County Library System, moves about 700 items per month, said librarian Cindy Weber, who has run the program since 1983. She hasn't done an official census, but estimates she serves about 150 patrons in a given month.
The service offers a wide variety of popular books, many of them large print, which are kept on reserve in a section in the rear of the Mays Landing branch. They also offer DVDs, books on CD and a new medium called a Playaway, which is a portable device about the size of a deck of cards that comes pre-loaded with an audiobook.
The Books by Mail inventory is updated monthly, and Weber sends out newsletters listing these additions. If Weber does not have a book in her inventory, she can pull it from the library's main stacks or request a transfer from affiliated libraries throughout the state. Requests are fulfilled in the order they are received.
While the service focuses on books, Weber is willing to grant the occasional odd request. Once, she recalls, a customer asked for a large-print recipe for banana bread. While she had no such item, she found a recipe in a regular book, blew it up with the library copier, and sent it to the customer.
"It's not only books," Weber said. "They call for everything."
Customers are asked to provide feedback on an included card when they return their books. Weber reads each piece of feedback, keeping a few by her desk in the back of the library.
Praise for the service is effusive, and DeLuca is no exception to the rule.
"I really enjoy it, I can't give enough accolades for them," DeLuca said. "I love them, in fact."
To use Books By Mail, call Fine at 609-625-2776, ext. 6338, or Weber at ext. 6324. Books also can be ordered online. Postage is free each way, and return labels are included with each shipment.
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