“I’m crippled up and can’t get out much,” said Chatsworth resident Betty Bain, 77. “I don’t care much for TV. I don’t know what I’d do without my books.”
The service delivers books and other library materials to residents in Whitfield, Murray and Gordon counties.
“It comes by every three weeks, and I get eight or nine books each time,” said Dalton resident Dorothy Slaven, 87. “I fell and broke my leg at the end of August. I’m still hobbling around, so it was especially good to have during that period.”
But library officials say state budget cuts will force them to end the van service at the end of this month. Library director Joe Forsee said he hopes volunteers may be able to pick up part of the service.
“Although I deplore the need for this change, I am proud that our library system continued to provide this service long after all our neighboring library systems had eliminated bookmobile and van service,” said Forsee.
The Northwest system includes the Dalton-Whitfield Library, the Chatsworth-Murray County Library and the Calhoun-Gordon County Library.
A previous round of budget cuts about five years ago forced the Northwest system and many others to abandon full bookmobile service. At that time, the Northwest system moved to a targeted service for shut-ins. Instead of a large vehicle carrying a selection of books, patrons would select items that would be delivered to them.
“It’s not the same, but it’s something,” Forsee said.
The service currently has 19 customers in the three-county area and costs about $60,000, including salaries and benefits and fuel and vehicle maintenance, to operate.
“We are the last one anywhere around us to keep even a van service. We’ve kept it going longer than anyone,” Forsee said. “But the cuts have kept coming.”
According to information provided by the library, its state grants for materials were cut to $79,527 from $118,476 in fiscal year 2009 and to $36,937 during the current fiscal year.
“They’ve told us we haven’t seen the last of the cuts this fiscal year (which ends June 30), and we’ll have more next year,” Forsee said.
Slaven said she hopes she can get a ride with a friend to the Dalton library every few weeks to pick up books. Bain said she does not know how she will cope with the loss of the service.
Forsee said library system officials plan to talk to the Friend of the Library groups in each of its three counties and other social service agencies and charities to see if volunteers might be able to handle some of the deliveries.
“We are hoping we can get some volunteers who will work with those homebound individuals, to get them to authorize them to use their cards to pick up some materials for them,” he said. “The volunteers don’t have to be members of any group. They just have to be someone that our homebound customers feel comfortable using their library card and checking things out for them. For someone who has the volunteer spirit, this would be a really great thing, and it wouldn’t take tons of time.”
Those who are interested in volunteering to help take books to homebound people should call the regional library headquarters at (706) 876-1360.