NORRISTOWN — September is Healthy Aging Month, and geriatrics professionals generally agree that reading helps keep people mentally active as they age. In fact, a number of studies substantiate the potential benefits of reading – beyond just pleasure – from reducing stress and improving sleep to improving memory.

The people who run the Montgomery-Norristown County Public Library’s Words on Wheels and Books by Mail programs, not to mention the hundreds of patrons who use the free services, need no convincing. WOW was founded in 1979 with the goal of providing public library services to seniors through a fully stocked bookmobile that now makes regular stops at dozens of 55-plus homes in Montgomery County. Books by Mail delivers library materials to patrons of all ages who are permanently or temporarily at home. All items are mailed in courier bags and include prepaid and return postage labels. Inquiries can be made by phone, email or postal service.

According to MC-NPL Bookmobile and Outreach Services Manager Sue Horning, both programs are “very popular.”

Photo by Mihilea Patterson – for MediaNews Group

Montgomery County Public Library – Norristown. Times Herald file photo

“The Words on Wheels program was started in 1979 by our former boss, who had the library buy a bread truck that he built shelves into,” Horning continues. “We stocked it up and it went…just an old grain truck. We are now on our third custom car and have visited 44 different properties so far. So the program has been around for 43 years, but every year it’s expanded and expanded…especially with all the new (older) facilities that have been built in the last few years.

“We visited different facilities twice a month. But due to staff shortages last year we had to cut it back to once a month…although we hope to go back to twice a month because it’s so popular. People in the places we go to are very grateful. Due to COVID, the library was closed for three months. But people kept calling wanting to know when we’d be back, and by spring 2021 – with all safety measures in place – we’re pretty much back to business.”

WOW patrons tend to be partial to popular best-selling authors “like John Grisham, James Patterson, David Baldacci, Nora Roberts, Debbie Macomber, Sandra Brown … probably 60-40 mystery to romance,” Horning says. .

“And we also have people who do biographies … a small group of people who like to read biographies or nonfiction and things like that.”

The seven communities served by WOW maintain names for on-site book clubs.

“Ridal Park (Jenkintown) has the largest… and is getting 26 copies of everything they’re currently reading, The Henna Artist, and Gloria Dei Farms (Hatboro) is the smallest with 10 copies and is currently reading The Language Flowers,” says Horning. “Other clubhouse properties — Dock Woods (Lansdale), Samuel A. Green House (Elkins Park), Sanatoga Ridge (Pottstown), Normandy Farms Estates (Blue Bell) and Meadowood (Lansdale) are somewhere in between.

“They send me a list of books they are interested in and I let them know if we have enough copies. Most require at least a few large hard copies, and a few require audio copies as well. Then each year I make a list of what they all read and send it to the different clubs…so they have an idea of ​​what the other clubs are reading. Sometimes they want to talk to each other about different books, and I also coordinate that.”

Horning says patrons at MC-NPL Books by Mail request similar titles, but demographically they’re “all over the place.”

“There is no age limit for this,” she explains. “The program is strict: Are you not at home? If you are disabled for any reason, you are eligible. For example, if you broke your leg and are going to be in jail for a couple of months, you have a right. If you are not driving, you are eligible. Most of the people we had were elderly people, but there were quite a few younger ones as well.”

Horning calls WOW and Books by Mail “invaluable.”

“As a lifelong reader, I can’t imagine being stuck somewhere and not having access to books,” she says. “And that’s the kind of feedback we’re getting from a lot of people, especially after being closed for so many months during the pandemic. Most senior living facilities have libraries, but if you’re an avid reader like many of our clients, you can easily read 12 books in a month…or even two weeks. So, I can’t even describe how valuable both services are, especially when you’re away from home. These patrons are loyal readers. Book lover. And you just can’t put a price on these services.”

MC-NPL is located at 1001 Powell St., Norristown. For more information, call 610-278-5100, ext. 7 or bookmobiles@mclinc.org.

https://www.thereporteronline.com/2022/09/21/wow-mcnpls-words-on-wheels-is-on-the-move/

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