The world of books, which has entertained 95-year-old Dick Garne since he was a child, is still an invigorating part of his life thanks to a service for housebound readers.
Mr Garne, who lives at Rogate, could no longer get to a public library and found the visiting mobile library difficult to access. Then he heard about the housebound reader service offered by the voluntary transport organisation, Tandem, in association with Midhurst library, which was established three years ago.
Now the retired farmer and local historian gets books delivered on a regular basis to the cottage where he and his wife, Barbara, live, by the service’s volunteer co-ordinator, Philippa Hill.
She explained: “The service developed out of a Tandem initiative when it was discovered that although Petersfield library had such a service, it could not be extended to housebound readers in Rogate as they were in West Sussex, not Hampshire.
“As Midhurst library did not have such a scheme at that time, we were put in touch with Jackie Manners, the equal access librarian at Worthing library area office, who was very keen such a service should be started.” The service has expanded with positive encouragement from the staff at Midhurst and Chichester libraries.
It now has 16 clients – in Rogate, Midhurst, Fernhurst, Petworth and Lodsworth – and 13 volunteers who collect and deliver books and tapes the borrowers ask for.
Sometimes, volunteers who have come to know their customers well choose a book they believe might suit their taste. On other occasions, library staff will make the choice.
Mrs Hill has been taking books to Mr Garne since January. She knows he enjoys mediaeval whodunnits from the pen of Edith Pargetter, and is interested in English history, particularly social history.
“I ask Philippa to bring books I want to read, and she picks out two or three others I might like. We often have a chat about them,” Mr Garne said.
The books are collected after two or three weeks, sometimes longer, and returned to the library as another selection is delivered.
“Our borrowers seem very appreciative of the service, which is free,” Mrs Hill said. “Sometimes they are people living on their own, and they enjoy a volunteer’s visit and a chat.
“It would be good if we could further expand the service with more volunteers and readers.”
Anyone interested in volunteering or receiving the service should contact Mrs Hill on 01730 821440 or Midhurst library on 01730 813564.