by Jenn Slone, Access Team Leader
Originally published in the Chillicothe Gazette, November 29, 2020

This year is not normal, everyone knows that. In ‘normal’ years, the Chillicothe & Ross County Public Library welcomes nearly 300,000 patrons through its doors. Patrons leisurely browse our stacks, dreaming of all the places books will take them; children run in to greet their favorite librarians who read them stories, and to tinker with computers and puzzles; adults chit chat as they run into one another while attending cooking and yoga programs. We love a bustling library. We miss you.

But because we love our patrons, we’ve instituted the necessary safeguards to make sure folks can continue receiving books and enrichment from the library, even during a global pandemic. While programming and services may be limited right now, we’ve worked hard to expand our offerings through digital services, drive-in and drive-through programming, and Outreach.

The library’s robust Outreach Department is somewhat of a hidden gem. Manager Mike Jones and Assistant Jenny Roberts work quietly behind the scenes, coordinating and delivering library materials each week to some of our county’s most vulnerable patrons.

The Outreach Department provides books (fiction, nonfiction, and large print), audiobooks, DVDs, magazines, Talking Books, braille materials, and more to elderly patrons and patrons who have qualifying conditions that make it impossible to leave the home. Due to the Covid-19 pandemic, it is dangerous for immunocompromised individuals to leave the home, therefore we have expanded our Outreach services to assist patrons in that camp, too.

The Outreach Department serves patrons in private residences, in nursing homes and other assisted living facilities, and in congregate housing. Patrons interested in library delivery service can call the Outreach Department at 740-702-4111

to see if they qualify. A doctor’s note may be required. Once a patron is signed up for homebound service, library staff will assemble a collection of materials based on the patron’s interests. Materials will be dropped off and picked up in a safe, contactless fashion at the request of the patron, typically on the patron’s front porch. Homebound patrons are responsible for the cost of lost or damaged items.

In addition to delivering library materials to our patrons in need, the Outreach Department also works closely with area social service agencies, and is often a point-of-contact to help put homebound patrons in touch with emergency services. In this capacity, we work with Ross County 211 to help our patrons find the resources they need. Additionally, we operate the ‘Checking In’ program out of the Outreach Department, which is a service that provides friendly wellness checks via telephone to elderly or homebound individuals during the pandemic.

If the pandemic has kept you from the library due to health limitations, let us bring the library to you. Call 740-702-4111 or visit CRCPL.org/services/outreach for more information.