The Mansfield/Richland County Public Library (MRCPL) is often known for its community programs for children and families. What may be lesser known is that they also have a robust program for senior citizens through the Lobby Stop program.
The Lobby Stop program is a monthly program that brings library materials to 31 different senior living facilities across Richland County. With only a team of 3, the Lobby Stop program visits 2-3 locations each day. By the end of the month, they have checked out over 1,000 items and have served 200-250 residents.
“Our goal is to bring the library out into the community to reach people that are either unable to or who don’t get to the library for whatever reason,” said Deborah Dubois, Outreach Coordinator.
“We call them Lobby Stops because we bring cartloads of materials into the lobby of whatever facility that they’re living at. They come down from their rooms and either get the materials that we have selected for them, or we have carts of materials they can browse from,” explained Dubois.
Edward Powell, 96, is extremely grateful for the Lobby Stop program.
“I think I’ve been doing most of my reading since I lost my wife. I’ve probably been really using the service for the last 8 years,” said Powell, who lives at Primrose Retirement Community of Mansfield.
Powell reads at least two hours a day and prefers mystery books and historical novels. Currently he’s reading A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens.
“I generally get 5-6 books every time she comes in. Over the course of the month I read through them,” said Powell.
The Lobby Stop at Primrose takes place once a month.
“(The residents) will be all filed in down there at 10:00 am on the second Thursday bringing their books back to get new ones,” said Powell. “So many of us can’t get out. There’s no way they could get out and get to the library to get the books themselves. To have the library come out and provide the service is just great.”
It’s important to the library staff to not just provide access to library resources for the participants, but they strive to connect seniors with resources that they want. When beginning the program, seniors are asked to fill out a survey stating their favorite materials to read, listen to, or watch. From there, Outreach Librarian, Anne Rhodes, helps select books, audiobooks, CDs and DVDs the seniors will enjoy.
“They’re interested in what we like to read, and they do a tremendous job of selecting books for us,” said Powell. “Not only do they bring me books I like to read, but if they don’t seem to have it then I ask her about it. She’ll do anything and everything to try to find it for me.”
In addition to providing resources through the Lobby Stops, MRCPL also offers monthly programming at 10 different senior living locations in the community.
“I try to have music, information and some pictures to share. People really enjoy it when I bring pictures of the old days in Mansfield from our local history room. I like hearing stories about the old days of Mansfield from the residents, and they seem to enjoy sharing their stories and pictures with each other,” said Rhodes.
Rhodes continued, “people always like the music and sing along with the patriotic songs or songs from their era. I did a program about New Year's traditions in various cultures and several people got very emotional singing Auld Lang Syne. I typically dance around and act pretty foolish because people seem to get a kick out of that. I like to clown around and make them smile.”
MRCPL also offers a Books by Mail program to serve residents with long-term physical disabilities. They are able to send materials through the local post office for free to those who are homebound. Similar to the Lobby Stop program, a survey is sent, and items are custom selected for those in the program by the same staff who lead the Lobby Stops.
Programs like Lobby Stops and Books by Mail are an essential part of MRCPL’s mission to provide access to the library for everyone in Richland County.
“We have made some great connections with the elderly community, and it's very humbling and rewarding” said Rhodes.
For more information on MRCPL’s community outreach programs visit https://www.mrcpl.org/services/outreach-services.