Helping Hands: Summit County Library program allows homebound residents to escape – through story |

Helping Hands: Summit County Library program allows homebound residents to escape – through story


Although Matthew Bogue wasn’t much of a reader when he was younger, he really started to enjoy it as an adult. But when he started experiencing blind spots in his vision – an early sign of multiple sclerosis – he wasn’t able to read like he used to. His disease caused him to go legally blind, and he’s now homebound most of the time. However, through the help of the Summit County Libraries’ outreach program – From Our Library to You: Books and More at Your Door – Bogue can now escape with a story any time he wants. Bogue – who mostly enjoys non-fiction adventure books – has books on CD delivered to his home by an outreach volunteer.

Program coordinator Mary Snook started the program six years ago to provide library materials to those unable to travel to the library because of extended illness or disability. She got the idea from an aunt in New Mexico, who had emphysema and used to have books delivered to her.

“She couldn’t get around, but she was really clear and sharp in her mind,” she said.

A part-time librarian at the North Branch Library, Snook proposed the idea to her boss, who told her to go for it. Snook now oversees the program, which is available to all Summit County residents. Participants, or their caregivers, must fill out an application for service, and then specify what kind of materials they’d like (books, books on CD, magazines, DVDs) and what subject matter and authors they enjoy. Volunteers deliver everything to the participant’s home. The service is free for patrons, and free for the library to run.

Snook chooses the materials herself, based on patrons’ preferences. Bogue – who used to spend a lot of time in the backcountry – likes true stories about mountain adventure; he recently enjoyed one about the survivor of an Andes plane crash. Snook said he’s also been interested in books about Vietnam, since he had a friend who was in the war.

“He has a good sense of humor, so he likes David Sedaris,” she said.

Snook said she sends a number of items at a time, just in case something isn’t to the person’s liking. Bogue recently told her he didn’t like a selection by author Garrison Keillor.

“A lot of it is trial and error,” Snook said. “People give me feedback.”

But, for the most part, Bogue said he loves everything Snook picks out.

“That Mary is spot-on,” he said. “She’s the best.”

Bogue usually gets four books at a time, and said he can go through one book in a day. Since he is home most of the time, he said the books help him escape and provide him with entertainment.

“I have a pretty crazy imagination,” he said. “It just helps me be more focused.”

Mike Hipps, the volunteer who makes deliveries to Bogue, got involved in the program after seeing a sign in the library seeking volunteers. He said he always allows extra time to chat when he delivers.

“(Bogue) likes to kid around; he’s got a pretty good sense of humor. But I’m mainly his gopher,” he laughed.

Hipps said he goes over more often than he used to, as Bogue is going through books faster.

“Another part of the outreach is spending some time with the person, if they want that,” Snook said.

A few years ago, Snooks said an elderly woman – who had been in the fashion industry when she was younger – requested to have someone read to her because she was losing her eyesight. Snooks said she was fortunate to find a volunteer happy to do it, who by chance also had experience in fashion.

“They had so much in common,” Snooks said. “It was just a wonderful arrangement.”

Hipps said he became involved because he’s a big believer in books, and thinks they make people smarter.

“It occupies your mind and keeps your imagination going,” he said. “Matthew is kind of housebound, and even though he can’t read, it’s like reading.”

Bogue said he would do that kind of volunteering if he was able.

“Everybody deserves access to library materials,” Snook said. “If I were homebound, I would be so crazy if I couldn’t get books.”

Right now, the program has eight participants. Snook said it varies, and the most it had at once was a dozen. Volunteers are not compensated in any way, and they all pay for their own gas.

Snook said she sometimes worries about the program getting so large she couldn’t meet the needs, but so far, she has always been able to find volunteers when she needs to.

“I think it’s great,” she said. “If I had my wildest dreams come true, I wish we had the funding for a full-time outreach librarian. I think that would be a wonderful thing … some day”

For more information about the program, visit

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