Peoria area libraries bring books right to patrons’ doors

By Elise Zwicky For Chronicle Media

Connie Hodel, outreach librarian for the Eureka Public Library District, heads out to make deliveries to homebound patrons on a snowy morning last week. The library delivers books to about 15 homebound patrons currently. (Photo courtesy of the Eureka Public Library District)

Octogenarian Darlene Waters has always been an avid reader and frequent visitor to the Peoria Public Library. When she could no longer drive and had trouble even walking, she was thrilled to learn the library would come to her instead.

“I’m one of these people that will have two or three books going at one time. Since I can’t get out, that’s one of my pastimes,” said Waters, one of about 13 Peoria residents currently receiving home delivery service from the Peoria Public Library.

Other local libraries offering delivery include the Pekin Public Library, Eureka Public Library District and Chillicothe Public Library.

“We understand not everybody can get to the library, so we want to find ways to be able to reach them. In most cases, it’s due to health issues, but people don’t have to bring a doctor’s note or anything. If they can’t make it into the library, we’ll bring the books to them,” said Randall Yelverton, the Peoria Public Library’s executive director.

About 20 patrons currently receive home delivery from the Pekin Public Library, which also delivers audio books and DVDs. The service is open to anyone who lives within the Pekin taxing district who can’t easily get to the library, including those who are disabled, seniors, and people who are homebound due to injury or illness.

“It’s important that everyone has access to the library. So if there are patrons who cannot get to the library, we want to be able to bring the library to them,” said Emily Lambe, the library’s public information and programming manager.

About 15 people take advantage of home delivery from the Eureka Public Library District, though EPLD Director Ann Reeves said that number is sometimes higher in the winter if weather makes getting out more difficult. The service is open to anyone within the library district who can’t physically get to the library.

“Our outreach service covers quite a few users in the two retirement communities in our library district. We encourage patrons always to come to the library, but when that physically cannot happen, we want to be sure we do what we can to help,” Reeves said.

The Chillicothe Public Library historically has offered limited delivery to local retirement and nursing home residents but is in the process of expanding the service to anyone who’s homebound within the district, including those with short-term or permanent mobility restrictions, according to Director Mary Aylmer.

“Our mission is to provide materials that further exploration, education and entertainment to everyone in our community, regardless of personal circumstances,” Aylmer said. “Reaching people where they are is key to meeting this aim.”

In most cases, the librarians pick out books they think the patron will enjoy based on conversations with him or her.

The Peoria Public Library Bookmobile visits schools, daycares and neighborhoods as part of the library’s outreach program. The library also offers a home delivery service to patrons who can’t get to the library, usually for medical reasons. (Photo courtesy of the Peoria Public Library)

In Eureka, library staff conduct interviews with new home delivery patrons to get a sense of their likes and dislikes. “One of the best parts of being a librarian is helping people find new authors and genres to enjoy,” Reeves noted.

Darlene Waters commended the Peoria Public Library staff’s ability to pick out books for her. “I sometimes give them a list of authors I really like or mention specific titles, and they always try to get those for me,” she said. “If didn’t have this service, it would be very hard because I’m constantly reading.”

Waters’ late husband, Mel, also enjoyed the service for several years. “He really looked forward to it,” she said.

“He had dementia, so as time went on they really tried to help with that, too.  When he could no longer read a total book, they started bringing him books with short stories. Then it gradually got to where they would bring books that mostly just had pictures. They really tried to help him that way,” she added.

Waters enjoys the social interaction from library deliveries almost as much as the books. “They don’t just drop the books off. They’ll chat with you a few minutes. If you don’t get the chance to see people much, that means a lot,” she said.

Home delivery is just one of several ways the homebound can take advantage of library services, according to Yelverton. Patrons can also access digital streaming services  for e-books, music and movies via the library’s website at

“Granted, I want people to come to the library because I think we offer excellent facilities with awesome programming for all ages, but if you are only in the library through our digital services, that is perfectly fine,” he said.

Catrina Klassen, outreach services coordinator for the Pekin Public Library, loads bags of books in her car before delivering the materials to homebound library patrons. She currently delivers books to about 20 people who can’t get to the library on their own. (Photo courtesy of Pekin Public Library)

Other outreach services offered by the Peoria Public Library include a Bookmobile that visits 15 schools, 11 preschools/daycares and 4 neighborhoods monthly; a memory care program that visits eight memory care facilities monthly, bringing a different program each time on topics such as local history, science, arts and entertainment and even armchair travel; and a federally funded Talking Books program administered by the Illinois State Library.

For more information about home delivery and other outreach services at the Peoria Public Library, call the outreach department at (309) 497-2069.

In Pekin, those interested in home delivery can call the library at (309) 347-7111. Patrons can sign up for the service over the phone, apply online through the library website at or mail an application to the library.

For more information about home delivery service at the Eureka Public Library District, call Outreach Coordinator Connie Hodel at (309) 467-2922. For more information in Chillicothe, call the Chillicothe Public Library at 309-274-2719.