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Fifty years of Homebound Services at the Ottawa Public Library

Tue, Jan 18, 2022

2021 marked fifty years of Homebound Services at the Ottawa Public Library!  For half a century, dedicated staff and volunteers have worked tirelessly to provide homebound customers with access to the OPL’s resources, selecting works in accessible formats based on each customer’s interests, and delivering them on a monthly basis.  We wanted to take this opportunity to look back at Homebound’s history as well as appreciate where the service is today.

            Homebound Services was implemented on April 2nd, 1971, sixty-five years after the OPL was founded.  It was initially run by volunteers with library staff occasionally selecting for and delivering to clients who were, at the time, referred to as “home readers,” (Jenkins 63).  At the time, the OPL only offered a print collection of materials.  According to The Library Book, “Twenty-three people and eleven seniors’ residences benefited from the Home Readers service in the first year, and the number rose to seventy in 1972,” (63).  Bookmobiles, which had also been recently introduced to the OPL, were the foundation for Homebound’s transportation and delivery methods (64).  It was the beginning of a wonderful and necessary service that would expand greatly over the following years.        

            Today, Homebound continues to offer its invaluable services.  They are currently serving a record number of over six hundred clients.  As times and technology have changed, Homebound Services is able to provide a larger array of accessible formats for its customers.  Audiobooks for CD and MP3 are now available as well as VictorReaders and DAISY accessible discs from the Centre for Equitable Library Access (CELA).  These items offer an easier and more intuitive means of listening to audiobooks to accommodate our customer’s differing needs.  The department also now offers DVDs with described video and audio, and the staff strive to keep the collection as up to date as possible.  eBooks and downloadable audiobooks are another available format today; however, over half of our clients do not have Internet access.  This being the case, staff often implement pilot projects to test out new, app-based technology that could grant our clients access to these online resources.     

            Homebound Services has spent the last fifty years expanding and improving in order to meet the varied needs of our clientele.  The Homebound staff is honoured to serve its clients in this way and loves nothing more than when customers are pleased with their selections.  With the pandemic slowly but steadily getting under control, we are eager to return to offering mini-libraries at senior’s residences and regain both pleasant and valuable in-person interactions with our clients.  Homebound Services is committed and ready to offer another fifty years of accessible and equitable service to all members of our community.  We thank our clients for their valuable patronage over the years. 

Works Cited

Jenkins, Phil. The Library Book: An Overdue History of the Ottawa Public Library 1906-2001.

Ottawa Public Library, 2002.