“Reading keeps me alive”: Homebound, but connected to their library

More than 700 adult library patrons are homebound due to age, illness or disability. Because they can’t visit the library, we bring the library to them. Adults who are homebound may have their materials mailed to them or delivered by library staff. Another program called Words on Wheels pairs a patron with a volunteer who takes time to visit when delivering materials. All three services are free.

Many home delivery patrons have no access to a computer. More than a third of these patrons call us to ask about what to read next. We ensure they always have books they haven’t read before.

“It is amazingly helpful to get suggestions and choices that energize my thinking and make the world more alive,” said one books-by-mail patron who responded to a recent survey. “A wonderful program that encourages and stimulates my mind so that I feel alive and young at 93!”

Van delivery patron with staff

A patron on our van delivery route echoed this: “You saved me from a lonely, narrow life. You bring the world to my door with helpful, cheerful people who are always on time and never miss a delivery. “

Reading, said another patron, keeps me alive.

A recent survey of Words on Wheels patrons shows that the program reduces isolation.

“Arthritis has made me homebound for several years. It is profoundly isolating. The social contact with someone who loves to read as much as I do helps! When arthritis made it impossible for me to carry 30 books home on Trimet, Words on Wheels saved my life!” 

Said another: “I look forward to my volunteer’s visits. Not only does that mean a supply of books tailored to my interests, it means I have a visit from this lovely woman who brightens my day. I very seldom leave my home, so visitors are quite welcome. We have lots to discuss — all those books I read.”

Patron and volunteer talking

The numbers of aging and disabled older adults in our community is expected to grow significantly in the next 15 years, according to Multnomah County's Aging, Disability and Veteran Services Division. In fact, the number of aging baby boomers will soon surpass those of all other segments of the population. An estimated 30 percent will become disabled at some point.

The library’s outreach services ensure that patrons who are homebound can still connect.

Two library staff prepare outreach materials

“Your service is a double blessing to all of us who are disabled. It opens up a giant window on the world,” said one patron.

Another patron, homebound due to a debilitating illness, said, “Thanks so much for a service I never anticipated needing. I am homebound. I thought at my age — 69 —  I would not read again, study our past and learn once more. You have given me hope again. I love you all.”

To refer an adult for free home delivery, call Library Outreach Services at 503.988.5404 or email us (lib.adult.outreach@multco.us).



You provide this service to my mother-in-law and we appreciate it so much. I am 70 now and know that if I need this service you will be there for me too. Thanks MCL for adding one more reason to state that you are the greatest library system in America!!
My friend Susan (pictured above) has suggested that I would be a good fit to volunteer in this program. I have experience visiting home bound adults through HouseCare Providers and am an avid reader of all sorts of material. I'd love to help with this. I live in Sellwood, am retired and have my own transportation. You can contact me at the above email.
To the friend of Susan: That's wonderful, thank you! Please contact our Volunteer Services staff to apply for and get started with volunteering: multcolib.org/volunteer. -MCL
Very nice article and a very dedicated staff! Keep up your great work.
What an important, wonderful service! Warms my heart and makes me appreciate the Multnomah County Public Library even more than I already do!
I’m so glad to know this, wish I’d known while recouping from hip surgery...and will remember this if I need it in the future.
So glad you are still providing this valuable service. Jere White and staff are great. Your retired friend, Robin
On the 2nd Friday of each month the Lending Library comes to Westmoreland Union Manor which houses over three hundred senior apartment dwellers. We are so blessed to have this service since many of us are avid readers and cannot get out to the library. We greatly look forward to the library carts coming with books, videos and books on tape and are often waiting in a "queue" for the carts to come. The library assistants are friendly and helpful and go out of their way to explain library processes and special order books for us. Thanks for all that you do!!
What a wonderful program! I read a lot and I'm lucky to live very close to the Hollywood branch. It's so good to know that I'll be able to keep reading of I'm physically able to get to the library as I age. Thank you Multnomah County Library for this program that brings joy to do many.
Is it possible to volunteer for words on wheels?
I have been more or less housebound for three months. No driving yet after two surgies and now a chronic health issue. I haven't been ordering books because friends help me in other ways and I don't want to ask them to pick up or return a book. I have one waiting right now. How could I access this service now or in the future?
I would like to get connected with audio book program. I live in assisted living facility nd transportation is hard for me. Thanks
To the patron interested in volunteering for Words on Wheels: Yes, you can apply to volunteer through Volunteer Services. You can apply at multcolib.org/volunteer, or call 503.988.5731 or email libvols@multcolib.org with questions. Thanks for your interest! -MCL
To the housebound patron who wants to access this service: Please call Library Outreach Services at 503.988.5404 or email lib.adult.outreach@multco.us. We will be happy to help! -MCL
To the patron who lives in an assisted living facility: Please call Library Outreach Services at 503.988.5404 or email lib.adult.outreach@multco.us so we can help. Thank you! -MCL

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