City brings books to elderly

New Haven’s elderly will now join its youth in benefiting from the city’s mobile library.

The Bookmobile Project, spearheaded by the New Haven Free Public Library, resumed its operations Tuesday. This year, for the first time, the vehcile will make stops at local retirement homes twice a month.Organizers and senior citizens said the service is valuable, since many city residents have no means of getting to the brick-and-mortar libraries themselves.

Librarian Cindy Morris, left, brings books to worker Patricia DeVore and others at the West River Senior Center. The city’s Bookmobile Project added retirement homes to its list of destinations this week.
Alex L.White
Librarian Cindy Morris, left, brings books to worker Patricia DeVore and others at the West River Senior Center. The city’s Bookmobile Project added retirement homes to its list of destinations this week.

The Bookmobile has been making its rounds off-and-on for roughly 10 years, organizers said, but its operations have been suspended intermittently due to lack of funding.

Formerly, the program focused on reaching younger students at day-care centers and after-school programs. This spring and summer, however, the Bookmobile will bring the functions of a library to those residents who are perhaps the least mobile, the elderly.

A grant from Citizens Bank will provide $20,000 over two years for the Bookmobile’s afternoon operations, which include services for the elderly, said Xia Feng, coordinator of children and youth services for the library. Citizens’ Bank had sponsored an earlier grant whose two years of support ends this June.

Federal funding through the New Haven School Readiness Council supports the Bookmobile’s morning operations, when the vehicle visits community centers such as LEAP, YMCA, Casa Otonal and the Boys and Girls Club.

The Bookmobile makes stops at 22 designated “school readiness sites,” where it distributes and collects loaned books. It also visits high-traffic locations, such as the Shaw’s parking lot.

At the West River Senior Center on Chapel Street on Wednesday afternoon, Raszue Beatty leafed through the Bookmobile’s selection, looking for Thomas Paine’s “The Age of Reason.”

“I like philosophy and other things of that nature, but I never have the opportunity to get down to the library,” Beatty said. “It’s just too far to walk. This program is really great.”

Patricia DeVore, who had picked up a copy of Toni Morrison’s “The Bluest Eye,” also said she found the program helpful.

“I think it’s great for the seniors, because we can’t always catch the bus and go downtown,” she said. “I’m hoping that the Bookmobile can go to Burgers Apartments, where I live.”

Jennifer Hall, the Bookmobile’s driver, said her job clearly has a big effect on the community, particularly the elderly and children.

“I really see that we’re making an impact, and it’s really fun,” Hall said. “We’re actively trying to get every resident of New Haven to have their own library card. Parents are often afraid that the books will be lost, but there are also a lot of households in which books are really important.”

The Bookmobile will be involved in Friday’s kickoff of the New Haven BIG READ program, which will encourage every resident of the city to read “To Kill a Mockingbird.” About 1,000 donated copies of the book will be distributed at the parade, and the Bookmobile is currently expected to distribute 400 of those copies.

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