Public Library Board continued to discuss changes to the Homebound program
at its meeting Thursday.
At its November
meeting, the Board deliberated for an hour after Library Director Lisa Stamm
proposed changing the Homebound program, where Library materials are
delivered to patrons who can’t get out much. Stamm’s suggested Library
employees no longer go into the patrons’ homes due to liability concerns
after finding out that WPL’s insurance doesn’t cover employees while they
are on private property. Stamm proposed that the relationships Homebound
Coordinators have with homebound patrons should be cultivated over the
phone. Under her changes, the program stays intact and still involves
Library employees physically delivering materials, though some libraries run
similar programs through the mail.
Homebound Coordinators attended Thursday’s meeting to talk about the
importance of the program. First up was Ellen Adams, who quit effective Nov.
30 in part due to Stamm’s change to the program.
“I just wanted to
let everybody know how much the homebound program has meant to the patrons
I’ve talked to over the last few years. It’s the visits that are most
important, not just delivering the services,” Adams said.
Adams said the
Homebound Program takes pressure off family members as well as comforting
patrons. She also raised the issue again that the patrons in nursing homes
may not have access to a phone. Either way, Adams isn’t a fan of phone calls
replacing the visits. “Phones are not very personal, its rather impersonal,”
Adams ended by
renewing her concerns that she previously told the Chesterton Tribune--she
recognizes the presence of liability, but thinks there are other ways to
address it. “Whoever the future Homebound people are, I really hope you can
reinstate the visits.”
Next was Ken
Keller, who recalled that the Library Board, not any of the Library staff,
were the driving force in forming the Homebound program. Keller said there
was an interruption in service to the Homebound patrons when Bethlehem Steel
went bankrupt, and it was the Board that brought it back after that. “I
think it was put down until 2006,” Keller said. “Then the Board stepped in,
assessed the situation, and said it’s time to bring it back.”
Keller said he
enjoyed working in the program. “The 12 years I spent in it were very
rewarding. I can simply say I think it’s a very valuable program.”
“You’ve had a big
part in the history of this and a big part of it up until this moment,”
Keller said. “I understand the legal concerns, but I think there’s ways to
address those concerns.”
After the comments,
the Board briefly discussed another matter before Board member Michele
Corazzo started discussion on the comments and the November decision. “I
just think that we decided things very quickly. I guess I would have liked
to have pause to think it over. I don’t know the right answer, but I just
felt like it was a little hurried,” Corazzo said.
Nick Tilden, for his part, said he thought the discussion at last month’s
meeting was very thorough. Tilden said he thought the conclusion was, “We
hate to change such a successful and impactful program, but ultimately
decided that there was no real way around it.”
Rondi Wightman said, “The personal piece of it is evident on both sides.
It’s made an emotional impact on everybody involved, and I recognize that.”
Board member Kathy
Cochran looked at the changes from a different angle, praising Stamm’s work.
“I think we actually got a particular kind of attention from our director
that is somewhat rare and has been kind of a constant since Lisa got here.
It’s very difficult for someone in a new position to do what Lisa has done,
jumping right in and reviewing the policies of an institution that’s been
active for so long.”
saying that she wouldn’t rule out the possibility of situations changing,
but for now she thinks changing the program was wise.
noting that Stamm’s decision was informed by research. Stamm confirmed: “Any
places that have something similar, they’re not doing it. Volunteers are
Vice-president Michael Livovich said it was “awful” that the practice of
visiting with the Homebound patrons has to end, but he thinks that the
program went above and beyond the Library’s mission. Though Livovich
offered, “I’m wondering about those volunteer programs and the shape of
though the Library might have more liability issues to explore if volunteers
delivered materials, there is no harm in researching the possibility. “If
there are libraries that have volunteers that do that, its worth exploring
those programs. It may not be possible here, but I think it’s worth
Stamm said other
libraries will sometimes run homebound programs through their Friends of the
Library groups if they have a lot of volunteers. Unfortunately, the WPL
Friends President has just retired, and the Thomas Branch Manager is guiding
the group and working on ways to develop the membership in the meantime.
Board member Abbe
Trent didn’t want to give up on the volunteer idea entirely. She wondered if
there are other organizations WPL could partner with and said she would ask
around to see if any groups from Valparaiso may be interested.
Wightman said she
feels like the Board’s hands are tied: “It’s hard because our hearts want to
make it happen, and we just cannot.”