Wednesday, 23 January 2019

Mary, 91, says home library service keeps her mind active

Mary, 91, says home library service keeps her mind active

SPRIGHTLY nonagenarian Mary Norcutt believes the secret to a long and healthy life is keeping her brain active.

Which is why she signed up to Oxfordshire County Council’s home library service.

Mary, 91, who lives near Nettlebed, doesn’t drive and would find it almost impossible to get from her home to the nearest libraries in Henley or Watlington.

So instead she receives a visit from a volunteer from the council’s service once a month when she can choose from a host of new books to read.

Each visit is also a chance to welcome a friendly face indoors for a cup of tea and a chat.

Mary was born in Henley and educated in Harpsden. She worked in a sawmill, then as a gardener at St Mary’s Hospital convalescent home in Nettlebed and later as a book-keeper in Henley.

She started using the library service in the spring last year and enjoys the visits from volunteer Karla Edis.

She said: “Someone from the council came to a coffee morning to talk about the home library service and I jumped at it straight away.

“I see Karla about once a month and she usually gives me half-a-dozen books.

“Once I start a book I motor through it. Fictional detective stories are my favourite and Karla always picks well. We’ve got to know each other’s tastes.

“It’s really nice to have a chat. The hour goes ever so quickly.

“I’m always happy when I know Karla’s coming. She’s a very sweet person, I can tell you.

“I also like doing jigsaw puzzles, which Karla brings from the library. I think keeping my brain active is essential. I do the Daily Mail crossword every morning and then get stuck into a book.”

Karla, 71, who started as a volunteer last year, says: “I love every minute of it. It’s very social and I love providing some company for the customers.

“I’ve always enjoyed books and really like coming into the library and choosing the next lot of books for them.”

She is a well-known face in Watlington, having started the interior decorating business Drapes Design Co in Couching Street in 1982.

She retired last year, handing over the reins to her daughter Belle and a colleague.

“Volunteering was something I wanted to do when I retired,” says Karla. “I also volunteer at Nuffield Place and will keep on doing this for as long as I can hold a steering wheel.”

The home library service has grown significantly in recent years. In 2015 it had 195 customers and now has more than 800.

Manager Kevin Salway says: “It makes a massive difference to people’s lives.

“I speak to volunteers and I speak to the customers and I get an awful lot of satisfaction from the service we are able to provide. For some people it’s life-saving. It isn’t just about the books, it’s about the social interaction and combating loneliness. It’s about providing a friendly face.”

The free service is offered to people of any age who are housebound and can’t get to the library due to disability, illness or full-time caring responsibilities.

Mr Salway says: “Our aim is to serve people who struggle to get to a library, can’t get to a library or who can get there but can’t carry the books home. If somebody wants the service they will have it.

“It’s open to any age and we supply everything from books in regular-sized print and large-sized print to audio books on CD, music CDs and DVDs.” There are 225 home library volunteers working across Oxfordshire who range in age from 18 to 80-plus. Volunteers must apply online and agree to a DBS check.

Mr Salway says: “What I try to do is link up volunteers and customers with similar interests and likes.

“We visit once every three weeks and usually give customers between two or six books.

“Customers are given a library card and nearly always we can get them the book they’re after.

“We get requests for everything, from Mills & Boon right through to really gory crime. Some of the older generation really like the blood and gore!”

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