ITHACA, N.Y.—Beginning Feb. 1, 2022, the Tompkins County Public Library (TCPL) is expanding its services to include mail-delivery service of books, audiobooks, DVDs, CDs and magazines to residents who are unable to physically visit the library.

Funding the service through a grant with Cornell University, Jennifer Schlossberg, head of access services at TCPL, said that the idea came while doing a pilot program collaboration with FoodNet’s Meals on Wheels.

“We knew that people using Meals on Wheels were limited in being able to get out, so we thought that would be a good group to start with. We had some people sign up, but we were getting calls from people who really wanted to have materials delivered to them but who were not part of Meals on Wheels,” Schlossberg said.

Schlossberg also said that access services really wanted to open the books by mail program to the community, including patrons at libraries other than the TCPL but still within the county. This way, she said, anyone who has or can get a library card from TCPL, the Southworth Library Association, Groton Pubic Library, Lansing Community Library, Newfield Public Library or Ulysses Philomathic Library and are unable to get to a physical library location are eligible for the program.

“We mail out the items and include postage on the cost for the materials to come back. It all goes in the mailbag, so it’s easy for it to come back,” she explained.

The blue canvas mailbags include a printed return address to TCPL and Books by Mail as well as a clear pocket where the recipient’s address card will go. When the recipient is ready to return the materials, they can simply flip over the mailing address to reveal the return prepaid postage. The mailbags will also be zip-tied closed to ensure they are safe during transit.

The Tompkins County Public Library Books by Mail bags. (Photo by Zoë Freer-Hessler)

Qualifiers for being unable to get to the library includes being temporarily or permanently homebound, experiencing difficulty due to a disability or age-related mobility issues or a concern for or risk due to COVID-19.

Library materials can be requested through the online catalog or via phone, and two items can be borrowed at a time for an initial three-week period, though the loan is renewable. Late items do not have a fine, but others may be waiting for them.

If you’re interested in signing up for the program you can fill out a form found here, or call Keith at (607)272-4557.

Zoë Freer-Hessler

Zoë Freer-Hessler is a general assignment reporter for the Ithaca Voice. She has covered a wide range of topics since joining the news organization in November 2021. She can be reached at zhessler@ithacavoice.com...