Mail-a-Book and Talk-a-Book

One of the great things about going to ALAs and PLAs is hearing about all these innovative and cost efficient grass roots programs that only require ingenuity and enthusiasm to get off the ground. These are the ideas we usually hear about in sessions, but sometimes the best places to discuss them in depth is at the bar, cappuccino or martini. We’re not picky. ?

I think one of the most original programming ideas I discussed with an energetic and dedicated conference pal over multiple cups of coffee.  Madlyn Schneider, Library Manager and Mail-A-Book Coordinator at the Queens Village Community Library, Queens Library, NY, described a program that she devised for her homebound patrons. Queens Village Community Library serves 700 individual homebound customers and rotates collections to 32 assisted care facilities.

Schneider conducts most of her original programming with her participants via conference call and has a devoted following. Schneider calls it, “Bringing quality library programming to the homebound.” One of the most popular programs is the call-n book discussion group. Most recently the articulate, feisty group of senior ladies called in to talk about book club favorite Shanghai Girls. Schneider said her readers like all kinds of stories, Short stories, classics, mysteries, poetry and sometimes current events.

Schneider said this group is interested in sharing comments and look forward to their monthly book discussion tele-meetings and weekly general chats. "Its social networking the old fashioned way." Anything that can be read to the participants or that they can read in advance is perfect material. Schneider prints stories off the internet, makes copies in larger print for those with vision issues, and mails out with other requests. Schneider usually moderates the programs, but loves inviting outside speakers from various agencies and arts organizations. At the end of the month Schneider expects to have one of her most successful programs yet when a guest speaker from the Metropolitan Museum of Art drops in for the tele-chat.

Everyone participates via conference call and Schneider points out this fact as the most cost beneficial. She also mentions the strong sense of community these participants feel for each other. There are more than 50 registered members, but about 10-15 call for any particular program. The members have come to care deeply for each other and always want to share information and resources.

For anyone interested in starting a program such as this for either book chats or general programming, Schneider suggests a small room is best to keep the sound reverb down. She has never had a problem finding guest speakers to donate their time and expertise. Schneider did point out that participants must be Mail-a-Book members to use the phone community service, however the program serves more than the Queens community. Anyone who lives, works, or owns property in New York State is eligible.

Other programs and topics Schneider is planning include movie and music discussions. She has conducted trivial pursuit contests, “The ladies love this game!” and bingo, another favorite. I send the large prints bingo boards out in advance and they tell me about the good luck charms and trinkets they have next to their boards. And these ladies are serious about their bingo!” Sometimes conversation is merely recommending reading and impromptu book talking to each other. Schneider has even found a senior theatre group to come in once a month to perform an old time radio show for the homebound. They do dramatic scenes from classic plays, sing and tell jokes. Once they reenacted a Baby Snooks show featuring radio comedienne Fanny Brice.

Schneider calls this program one of her favorites and one of the most valuable her library can offer. “They do as much for me as I do for them. It’s a mitzvah. I change the quality of their life for the day, but they’re changing mine for a lifetime.”

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About the Author:

Kaite Mediatore Stover refuses to give up her day job as director of readers' services for The Kansas City Public Library to read tarot cards professionally or be the merch girl/roadie for her husband's numerous bands. Follow her on Twitter at @MarianLiberryan.

6 Comments on "Mail-a-Book and Talk-a-Book"

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  1. ckubala@columbiactlibrary.org' CarolK says:

    My sincere respect and admiration is wished to Madlyn Schneider, Library Manager and Mail-A-Book Coordinator of the Queens Village Community Library, Queens Library, NY. She is what libraries and librarians are about!

  2. What a thoughtful way of serving patrons.

  3. mindy2659@yahoo.com' Mindy Burton says:

    It is thrilling and heartwarming to know that the Madlyn’s program is offering homebound members a way to remain vital and involved in their community. I hope that other library branches will follow her lead, and do the same thing for their homebound readers! Thenk you Madlyn, for a fabulous idea; I am sure you make many people happy each day!

  4. JANLIBOW@GMAIL.COM' JAN LIBOW says:

    It is a wonderful program!!

  5. EDWYCK21@AOL.COM' Edward Wyckoff says:

    wOULD LIKE INFO.ON MAIL A BOOK.

  6. Thanks everyone for the kind remarks. Edward, please give me a call at 718-776-6800 for more information about Mail a Book. I’d be happy to answer your questions. Madlyn Schneider

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