A van loaded with library books and other materials was on its way to Cedar Ridge by Bonaventure Retired and Assisted Living in Bonney Lake, and a 15 residents were ready for its arrival.
In their activity room at Cedar Ridge on April 27, residents waited patiently in a circle with books piled on their laps, ready to exchange the old for the new.
For many of these residents, finding transportation to a Pierce County library is too difficult — mobility is slow, and many don’t drive anymore.
So once a month, Pierce County Library’s Community Outreach Services department comes to them.
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“We specifically visit facilities that experience barriers to get into one of our libraries,” said senior librarian Anna Shelton. “It’s just like coming into the library. We want to give people that same experience.”
We specifically visit facilities that experience barriers to get into one of our libraries. It’s just like coming into the library. We want to give people that same experience.
Anna Shelton, senior librarian at Pierce County Library
When the van arrives, Pierce County Library staff members wheel two shelves filled with around 200 to 300 books, audiobooks and movies to the activity room. It doesn’t take long for residents to eagerly descend on the new materials.
Librarian Gabby Fuentes helps residents find the books or movies they’re looking for, and takes down requests to bring next month. Fuentes has noticed interests in a range of genres, from Amish romance to thrillers to food mysteries.
“It’s convenient,” said resident Everly O’Neil. “You can order ahead and they bring them (next month).”
“They get you whatever you want,” added resident Beth Shea. “You request something, it’s there the next time. I know because I got 25 books last time.”
Cedar Ridge has two of its own lending libraries available anytime for residents, but Pierce County Library’s collection, which can access materials from its 20 branches, supplements that. Large-print books are also a big hit with residents.
“It keeps them busy, they love it,” said Cedar Ridge activities director Angela Sayre. “We have ladies who come in and walk out with stacks of books. It’s awesome that (Pierce County Library) does that.”
It keeps them busy, they love it. We have ladies who come in and walk out with stacks of books. It’s awesome that (PCL) does that.
Angela Sayre, activities director at Cedar Ridge
At the end of the hour, library staff members pack up their shelves to leave, ready to move on to the next facility or return to a library. They visit 27 facilities a month all across Pierce County.
“All of us, as we age, may become less mobile,” Shelton said. “When we visit a library our whole world of curiosity and imagination are available.”
Pierce County Library System aims to enrich the quality of life across all ages, said Shelton, which is why its outreach service takes materials to children, too.
Early Learning supervising librarian Susan Anderson-Newham works with Early Learning librarian Alison Pascone to bring books, CDs and other materials to childcare facilities, Early Childhood Education and Assistance Programs (ECEAP) and Head Start programs.
Between the two of them, they visit between 16 to 20 sites a year and make about 20 stops a month. The demand for librarians is so high, they have to rotate facilities every year.
“We’re going to go where we have the most need,” said Anderson-Newham, who added that to enroll a child in an ECEAP program, family income must be under 200 percent of the federal poverty level depending on family size.
Anderson-Newham and Pascone visited Liberty Ridge Elementary School in Bonney Lake this month, where Pascone read and performed activities with an ECEAP class as part of the library’s Ready for Reading program.
“It’s their early years, where they’re learning the tools to make them successful readers,” Anderson-Newham said. “We want them to see themselves in books and see other children who are different from them.”
Many reading programs like this, said Anderson-Newham, are the first to be cut from schools and other childcare facilities.
This is the stuff that goes first. So it’s fun for us to try to fill that ... It’s a way to remind the community that we’re here as a resource.
Susan Anderson-Newham, early learning supervising librarian at Pierce County Library
“This is the stuff that goes first. So it’s fun for us to try to fill that,” she said. “It’s a way to remind the community that we’re here as a resource.”
“I get to know the kids and parents and the community,” Pascone said. “It helps children to have fun around books. The more experiences we can give them around books, the better.”
Pierce County Library’s outreach program extends to homebound delivery as well, where residents within a library’s service area who are confined to their homes can receive monthly visits by a Community Outreach Services department staff member. For more information, visit piercecountylibrary.org.