Enlightening lives one book stop at a time
Published: June 15, 2011
Like many patrons who've grown attached to him, Milner makes small talk with him, keeping the conversation going just to keep him around a little while. Then she's satisfied and announces, with mock impatience, that the visit is over. It's Salad Day in the downstairs cafeteria, after all.
"I want you to scat and go to the next place, 'cause I'm going down to the basement where they're having free salad, so skadoodle," she says. "And Aaron, you get your jacket the next time you come."
The day continues on this way.
During the afternoon, Jacobsen will visit Peggy Ruth Bell, who just had back surgery but insists on showing she can still dance. "Don't I look good for 62? I can drop it like it's hot; I just need a little help getting back up." And she demonstrates.
He'll stop by Otis Carter's apartment, where the gentle 85-year-old simply says, in a wispy voice, "Beautiful. Beautiful" at the sight of bags of fresh books.
He'll drop in on Aretha Hudson, 65, who will come to the door in a housedress and do-rag and will debate him about English royalty centuries ago.
And he'll get several embraces from Theresa Fryer, 86, who grew up in Wales and lived through the Blitz during World War II, and will share with him, as she has before, the aloof perspective of someone whose house was hit by a bomb and who lived through it. "If you got a roof over your head, you got clothes on your back, you got food in your house, that's enough," she tells him in a still-thick Welsh accent. "All this other stuff is gonna come. You can't worry about it."
After the last stops, as the day winds down, Boyd and Jacobsen head back to their branch in the hulkingly slow bookmobile. Jacobsen reflects on the job.
"It's satisfying, 'cause you do a lot of legwork, you get it done, you sit back with a cup of coffee or just relaxing, going, 'That was a good day.' You meet some big characters. It's just a good day all around."
McCormick says the bookmobile is about more than just the mechanics of bringing books to people. It's why the program has lasted so long, through all the other changes the library's gone through, and why it'll continue. Because there will always be people in the city, some lonely and hiding, who still like having books to read and a familiar person to talk to.
"Books people keep alive, books are friends, they are company," she says. She plans on retiring in a few months but knows she'll still volunteer at the branch from time to time. "We have a lot of seniors in our city who don't have family, and their books serve as their family. That's what they tell us."
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