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Creating Connections Through Library Mail Service

Creating Connections Through Library Mail Service

We shine a spotlight on a community built by patrons and WCCLS staff.
Cover image advertising the Library Mail Service program

At the heart of the Library Mail Service program is the opportunity to create connections, which is especially important to those who cannot easily interact with others in-person. For those individuals, the program can be their lifeline. “When the pandemic hit, libraries weren’t open,” says Marcia H., an avid WCCLS patron. “I remembered the Library Mail Service program. So, I called a phone number and Cynthia picked up. Funny thing is I last spoke to her 22 years ago. Once we realized who the other was, we picked up right where we left off.”

Cynthia Peterson, Patron Services Supervisor at WCCLS, oversees the Library Mail Service program. Originally called “Books by Mail,” the program was established in 1976 to serve rural communities that did not have direct access to library service. In 1977 the program evolved into an outreach service for the elderly who were homebound and has since expanded to serve patrons of all ages who are unable to physically make it to the library. The program currently serves patrons from 33 to 100 and offers an extensive collection of large print and audiobooks. “It’s about equity,” says Cynthia. “We are meeting patrons in the place where library items are accessible to them – their home.”

Patron Janine J. enrolled in the program several years ago when the pandemic started. “It made my days even more wonderful. It brings a whole new world to me.” She enjoys borrowing DVDs, especially movies from the 70s. Real photo of Valentines-themed thank you notes from Library Mail Service patrons

Terrie Lowe, Library Mail & Interlibrary Loan Service Clerk, goes the extra mile when preparing mailbags for patrons. “I was taught to ‘pretend the patron is there,’” she says. “Doing so ensures that we put in as much care as possible in every task that we do. The act of receiving and opening a blue mailbag is our interaction with a patron.”

Knowing how much patrons anticipate receiving their mailbags filled with library items, Terrie takes the time to add “a little extra fun” to each, depending on the current season. Whether it be paper hearts, shamrocks, or felt teddy bears, patrons appreciate receiving a special surprise.

“I was as happy as a hog in a mud hole when I first enrolled in the program,” exclaims Marcia. “Now I look for the blue mailbags and when I see them, oh boy does it feels like Christmas.” As for her go-to requests, she has too many favorites to name. “Generally they’re mood specific. Sometimes I like a simple-minded mystery, sometimes I want Tolstoy.”

Library Mail Service provides more than just books, movies, and holiday cards. For many patrons, the program forges lasting community bonds. “When I experienced loss, Cynthia and Terrie supported me,” says Janine. “Even though I’ve never met them in person, I know them as some of my best friends.”

And for the small but mighty team running the program, the patrons are undoubtedly the best part of the job. “It’s joyful for both us and them,” says Terrie.

Packaged with care

Library Mail Service sends books, movies, and audiobooks to residents of Washington County at no cost if they cannot physically make it to the library. If you or someone you know can benefit from the program, please apply today.