Nora Johnson and Caroline Roisum are neighbors at a senior apartment complex in Eden Prairie. Each is also a life-long reader. Reading keeps their minds keen, they say, and gives them a constant stream of new conversation topics.
“All my life, I’ve had my nose in a book,” says Caroline. “I’m a real library rat.” While a fourth grader at a Minneapolis primary school, her library options were limited, though – just six shelves. “So I read almost every book they had. There was a lot of Zane Gray,” she recalls. Today, she favors mysteries and detective novels, though she’s currently reading “Bazaar of Bad Dreams,” a collection of short stories by Stephen King.
Nora remembers loving to be read to even before she could read. While a child, her father moved the family from New Orleans to Chicago to find work during the Depression. “By then, I was already addicted to books,” she says. “I can still bring to mind the smell of the Chicago library where I went growing up. You know, that wonderful smell libraries have?” Today, Nora is drawn to historical fiction and a range of non-fiction. She raves about “Cod: A Biography of the Fish that Changed the World” by Mark Kurlansky.
Now in their 80s, Caroline and Nora and others at Elim Shores find it difficult to get to the library. So Hennepin County Library comes to them. Every three weeks, Denise Weir, an outreach services volunteer, arrives in Eden Prairie with a cart of print books, audio books, DVDs, and other library materials that residents have requested.
Weir, who works at Hennepin Technical College, has been coming to Elim Shores for two years. “This is a good gig,” says Weir, who sees real value in the service she provides. “Reading is good, no matter the genre. It keeps you healthy and active. It keeps your brain oriented to current events.” Indeed, the National Institute of Aging reports that older people who stay cognitively active throughout life – via social engagement or intellectual stimulation like reading – have a reduced risk of Alzheimer’s disease and cognitive decline.
Denise Weir, Hennepin County Library outreach services volunteerReading opens up the world to you and connects you to other people.
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Hennepin County Library has a variety of outreach services that benefit people who experience barriers to visiting the library. In addition to outreach to senior housing complexes like Elim Shores, the library’s Service to At-Home Patrons program will deliver materials and services directly to the homes of residents who cannot get to the library due to illness, disability, or visual impairment. Materials and services are either delivered to a resident’s home by a volunteer or sent to the home via U.S. mail at no charge to the resident and with return postage paid.
The library also does outreach to several corrections facilities in the county, including the Adult Corrections Facility, Public Safety Facility, County Home School, and Juvenile Detention Center.
services by mail
Back at Elim Shores, Weir has arrived with a cartload of library materials. “The library lady is here!” one resident announces, as Weir shrugs off her winter jacket and begins laying her materials on a table in the lobby. “You wouldn’t believe how many people read here!” Weir says, as a crowd begins forming around her table.
One of the first to arrive is Caroline Roisum, who’s brought with her a clipping of the New York Times Book Review. She points to a few selections on the list, and Weir says she will request them through the library.
Then 83-year-old Art Stenberg shows up, motoring through the lobby on a red electric scooter. He’s holding a cloth bag, which Weir fills with DVDs. Art’s wife, also a resident, finds it difficult to leave their unit, so the two watch a lot of movies together. Two of their favorite are “On the Waterfront” and “You’ve Got Mail”.
Later, 91-year old Norman Bloom, a former minister, makes an appearance. He read 86 books in 2014, 60 in 2015, and is on a similar pace in 2016.
Then Nora Johnson arrives. She recently read a high-level economics book, she says, so she can have conversations with her grandson, who is getting an economics degree. “I no longer drive, so going to the library meant calling for a cab or taking a bus,” Johnson says, as she peruses Weir’s table. “So when the library started coming to me, I thought what a treat.”
To learn more about the library’s outreach services, visit: www.hclib.org/outreach
Applications for at-home service can be submitted online, by phone, or in person.
Apply online: Submit an online application
Apply by phone: Call 612-543-8850
Apply by mail or in person: Print and complete the application (PDF) and return it by mail or in person to any Hennepin County library.
By: Lori Imsdahl