Manatee libraries to mail materials to patrons unable to get to libraries

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by Claire Aronson, courtesy of Bradenton Herald

Inability to physically get to a Manatee County (FL) library branch will no longer stop residents from accessing the library system’s materials.

This summer, Manatee libraries launched its new Books by Mail program, which allows Manatee County residents to be mailed materials if they are physically unable to travel to one of the county’s libraries.

“It is important because this is an underserved population that often gets forgotten about in libraries,” said Rachel Suntop, a county librarian who is running the program. “As librarians, we believe in everyone getting equal access to our materials.”

Library mailing bagThe service is only available to residents who are either temporarily or long-term physically disabled and can’t get to the library, Suntop said, adding that individuals can’t both be a Books by Mail patron as well as a in-person library patron.

“This service is primarily for people who just can’t get to the library,” she said.

Since the books are mailed at no cost through the U.S. Postal Service, the materials that can be mailed are limited to large print books excluding new releases, audio books on CDs, playaways and descriptive DVDs. The materials are mailed in teal reusable envelopes and patrons are able to keep the materials for up to six weeks.

“It is for a longer time but only three items,” Suntop said. “They can renew if they need to.”  The patron can put the materials back in the teal envelope to send them back to the library, which must receive the materials before they send out additional items, Suntop said.

“It is a free service,” she said.

So far, the library only has a few patrons using the Books by Mail program but there is no limit to the number of people who can participate in the program, Suntop said.  “Generally they really liked it,” she said of the first users. “They have been really excited about it. For the most part, they have been really appreciative of it and really happy that it exists.”

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