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Interactive Library Programs for Homebound Children and Teens

Queens Library
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Innovation Summary

Through a partnership with the New York City Department of Education nad using techniques developed for homebound adults, children and teens who receive home instruction are able to participate in interactive library programs.

Innovation Leader: Lambert Shell, Director, Programs and Services, lshell@queenslibrary.org

Problem Statement

There are approximately 250 children and teens in the county of Queens NY who are receiving public education provided in their homes by the NYC Department of Education. The students are homebound due to a variety of short-term or long-term health conditions. While the Department of Education is able to provide adequate instruction, school attendance provides more than information. Peer interactions and socialization are parts of their development, as well. Homebound children are isolated. They particularly miss the shared experiences with others who are similarly homebound. Library attendance is an important enrichment to the school curriculum. In Queens, 80% of teens use their library on a regular basis, for homework support and personal development, as well as a place to 'hang out.' Although the library is able to provide educational and recreational books and DVDs by mail to the homebound, the peer contact component is missing.

Innovation

Three years ago, Queens Library's Mail A Book program developed an interactive programming component for homebound adults. Through an inexpensive telephone conferencing unit, library customers began calling in to library programs. Some were specifically for them (twice weekly chats on specified topics; art lectures where visual materials had previously been mailed to participants). Others were programs that were already scheduled at the library, and that the phone-in customers could appreciate, such as musical performances or author talks. It has developed a devoted following who have formed friendships among the participants, most of whom have never met in person. Later, Skype and Facebook were added as communications vehicles, but since the program largely services homebound seniors, the more complex technology is not popular. Through a new partnership with the NYC Department of Education, children and teens are being encouraged to sign up to receive age-appropriate books and videos and also to call into to library programs specific to their age group. Planned are Skype storytime with interactive chat, Skype arts & crafts where materials have been sent home previously and a weekly teen chat.

Progress

Sign up has been in progress since February 2012. Participants are already receiving books and videos by request. Children and teens must be in a similar age group for the programs to be effective, and they are still forming.