The book’s in the mail

Remember the bookmobile, that great lumbering library on wheels that delivers books to those rural folks who can’t make it to the regular library?

A new variation on that old concept has arrived in Butte County. Books-By-Mail is aimed at people who are homebound due to disability, age or illness and is just what the name implies: the Butte County Library’s six branches now send books through the mail for free.

People can check out books, videos or anything else the library loans for up to four weeks. Orders made online or by phone or mail are delivered, postage paid, in a zippered green bag with a paid return mailing card. The program is also available to caregivers.

“We’ve identified that a lot of our community is underserved because we’re so lacking in funds, but the disabled community is especially underserved in Butte County,” said Brenda Crotts, Oroville branch librarian.

The services are funded by a California State Library grant to help people with disabilities, particularly mobility limitations. Crotts and Paradise Branch Librarian Liz Stewart worked for six months to obtain the grant. The library, which developed the programs based on community feedback, was one of 30 county libraries to receive grants.

About a dozen people currently use Books-By-Mail, but more are expected to sign up as the word filters out.

Paradise resident Helen Graham, 87, for one, jumped aboard right away. “It is splendid to get several lovely big books that you want in a big bag, carefully sealed,” said Graham, who visited the library for years but no longer does so because she doesn’t drive anymore and has trouble walking. “It is really serving me wonderfully.”

Crotts said the grant will also fund automatic door openers at the Chico and Oroville branches and possibly in Gridley; rotating book collections and more bookmobile services for county retirement and assisted-living facilities; large-print books; and special furniture, among other things.

Sharlene Frazier of Oroville—whose 29-year-old son Christian has cerebral palsy and mental retardation and enjoys getting new books and videos most every week—encourages others to use the program: "They might be able to have the books come in and have the world come to them."