Whether you’re an active older person who enjoys going out and about, or one who has become homebound, the Queens Library has just the right program for you. Tons of them, in fact.
There are the creative aging programs offered at various branches in different parts of Queens, each a series of eight sessions taught by a professional and ending with a “culminating event.” So far the series has included drawing, watercolor painting, memoir writing, photography and acting.
There’s the Mail-a-Book program, which sends not just tomes but videos and even e-readers to those who are stuck at home due to age or disability. And Mail-a-Book has developed far beyond even those great services, today even offering teleconferencing, videoconferencing through the Skype program and over-the-phone information on everything from public services to finances to physicians.
It’s all done under the direction of the library’s older adult coordinator, Madlyn Schneider, a librarian who took over the unit six years ago. Her staff includes two other full-time employees, Senior Librarian Willie Simmons and Customer Service Representative Zeena Jenkins-Moore, as well as 10 part-timers and three volunteers.
The teleconferencing is something Schneider started six years ago.
“Who knew when I started this that we’d have 280 programs a year where you can call in and learn something or just have someone to talk to?” Schneider said, noting that her staff is so enthusiastic to serve that sometimes people come in on Monday and relate how they spoke with so-and-so over the weekend. “There’s a lot of one-on-one because these people are very isolated and lonely. They can’t help themselves, and we become an extension of their family.”
The results of all the programming are getting noticed, too — though Schneider didn’t mention it when interviewed, she was one of only 10 winners nationwide of the “I Love My Librarian” award in 2012.
Of course it’s the patrons served by the library who notice the most.
One participant in Mail-a-Book, Bonnie Sue Pokorny, tried to nominate it a for a neighborhood library award, though it didn’t qualify because it’s a program, not an actual library. Pokorny’s nominating essay said, in large part, that Mail-a-Book is a vital lifeline for the homebound, whether through its teleconferenced book discussion, games, virtual tours of museums or links to social services.
“We wake up in the morning knowing there is going to be some activity that we want to participate in, friends to call, activities and fun,” Pokorny wrote. “We look forward to the day.”
Those interested in programs for seniors can ask about them at any branch or see the full gamut of services at queenslibrary.org. For details about Mail-a-Book, they can click on queenslibrary.org/books/mail-a-book or call (718) 464-0084 between 10 a.m. and 5 p.m. on weekdays.
The library offers “hundreds of different topics, thousands of programs every month,” Schneider said. It’s giving the homebound a lifeline, providing continuing education, partnering with senior centers to coordinate activities and provide them with rotating book collections — you name it. As long as the funding is there it will continue to do so, and who knows what Schneider and her staff will think of next?