Julia Wells really likes a good Christian romance novel. She set out to find one on an afternoon bright with spring promise, in a cheerful room with butter-yellow walls near the Trinity Place Retirement Community dining room. She makes a point to go there every other Wednesday, between 1 p.m. and 2 p.m., when the book ladies visit and set up a mini lending library. She is likely to run into Ann Jenness there. Jenness checks out about eight books every time the book ladies come out. She’s a fast reader.
The book ladies these Trinity Place apartment residents see every other week are Dot Burdeshaw and Pam Bullock. The pair of volunteers bring an assortment of reading material and set up for an hour to check books in and out. It is an outreach of the First Baptist Church Library in Columbus. Burdeshaw has been at it for “seven or eight years.” Bullock for going on three years. They follow in the footsteps of many dedicated volunteers who did the same before them.
“For some of these people, this is the only chance they get to get books,” said Bullock, who holds a degree in library science from the University of Southern Mississippi. “They may have a hard time getting to the public library, and this way they don’t have to worry about anything — we’re bringing the books to them.”
Getting to know you
Longtime First Baptist Church librarian Margaret Perkins is an integral member of the team. Trinity residents don’t interact with her face-to-face, but she has their interests at heart. Perkins oversees the vast library at the church that houses more than 15,000 titles. They range from fiction, biographies, devotional and study resources to large-print books, DVDs and CDs. It’s Perkins and her staff who thoughtfully make selections for the residents. They get to know the readers’ preferences and aim to please.
“We know what they have checked out before,” said Perkins. “The computer can tell us what they’ve gotten for the last three years. Some of them have read so much, it’s hard to find a book they haven’t read,” she chuckled. In addition to seeking out books for specific readers, Perkins also sends a general selection of books to appeal to new browsers to the service.
One of those Wednesday was Becky Rivers. She moved to Trinity in mid-February; this was her first visit to the outreach library.
“I love it here so much already,” said Rivers, who filled out an information sheet and will soon receive a laminated FBC library card. “I love to read, so this will be great for me.” She looks forward to getting inspirational books by people like Joel Osteen and Joyce Meyer.
The list of oft-requested writers includes other well-known names, such as Jan Karon, author of the New York Times best-selling Mitford series, Lori Copeland and Mindy Starns Clark. The common denominators in everything the book ladies bring are clean storyline, clean language.
More than reading
As the library hour ebbed and flowed Wednesday, it became apparent that, while books may be the magnet that draws visitors to the butter-yellow room, they are not the only positive. While Julia Wells checked her personal notebook, where she records each title she reads and jots notes about favorite authors, Ann Jenness browsed through books displayed on the table. Fellow resident Virginia McAdams entered the room. (She does some substitute Sunday School teaching at Fairview Baptist Church and likes to stop in for material to help with lessons.) Friendly greetings and easy conversation were the order of the day.
“The library service gives residents a contact with people they don’t necessarily see any more,” said Trinity Place program director Gerald Scallions of the interaction. “The volunteers that come have often become friends with those who read.”
“I’ve observed that there is a wonderful fellowship among the people here,” remarked Burdeshaw, who considers it a privilege to bring books to people who might not otherwise have easy access to them. For those that come and check them out, it is an integral part of their lives, she added.
Bullock, her fellow volunteer, agreed and said, “When I need it someday, I just hope there will be somebody bringing books for me to read.”
Jan Swoope is the Lifestyles Editor for The Commercial Dispatch.
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