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Delivery reading program cut from library

A free Kitchigami Regional Library service that delivers books to seniors and the home-bound is soon to disappear.

 Kitchigami Regional Director Marian Ridge said the decision to eliminate the program was based on data that suggested not enough people were using the service to justify the cost of running it. Ridge said that until Kitchigami began scaling back the program in 2011, it cost between $20,000 and $30,000 annually, or “well over” $1,000 per participant.

“This program simply did not have legs to stand on,” Ridge said.

Renee Fretham, coordinator for the program’s Wadena branch, said facilities with seniors or home-bound readers receive tote boxes containing large-print books, audiobooks on CD as well as MP3 files and movies.

With individuals, the materials are usually just books and are delivered directly to the reader’s door. The library keeps track of what each participant in the individual-delivery system checks out so they can send books that match their preferences in the future. Participants apply by mailing in an application and noting what kinds of books and other items they like.

Although technically the program has already been eliminated, Ridge and Laurel Hall, the program’s coordinator, both said deliveries are still being made with the books already purchased for outreach. However, with no new materials being acquired for the program, it will eventually run out of unread materials to loan and then be stopped completely. The program will last approximately two to three years more before deliveries are halted, Ridge said.

Ridge noted that many of the deliveries were made by paid employees the library reimbursed for gas mileage.  Hall said now the deliveries are made entirely by volunteers using their own vehicles. The system used to include delivery to both individuals and to senior living facilities, but Hall said individual delivery has mostly been discontinued.

“It’s been pretty heartbreaking to have to call people and let them know we can’t do it,” Hall said.

John Godding has been helping deliver books for about a year. Originally from Eagle Bend, he is now a resident at Humphrey Manor in Wadena. Although he and his wife can no longer drive, they still make about four delivery trips per week via the Friendly Rider transit bus. Godding said he felt for the seniors who will no longer be able to use the service.

“It’ll really cut off something they enjoy doing,” he said.