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Allen County Public Library brings 'at home' services to residents

Park Place resident Jean Brendel browses a cart of library materials brought in by Allen County Public Library Outreach Specialist Jonathan Frincke on Wednesday, July 27, 2022.
Ella Abbott
Park Place resident Jean Brendel browses a cart of library materials brought in by Allen County Public Library Outreach Specialist Jonathan Frincke on Wednesday, July 27, 2022.

The Allen County Public Library has been delivering library materials to county residents for a century.

Jonathan Frincke is an Outreach Specialist for the Allen County Public Library. He’s dropping off books to residents at Park Place, a senior living facility in Fort Wayne. Frincke has been coming to Park Place for four years as part of the ACPL’s Library at Home program.

“We deliver books and other library material to people who have a hard time coming into one of our branches,” he said.

The Library at Home program has been delivering books to Park Place since the facility opened 10 years ago. But, the library has been providing outreach materials to hospitals, homes, and general stores since 1921.

"We do find so many ways to enrich the community, whether it be through books, through programs, even through music and DVDs and movies," Frincke said.

Every fourth Wednesday, Frincke brings residents books from lists they send him.

“We also have a cart because we know people like to browse,” he said.

Residents meet Frincke in Park Place’s own library, a small-ish room filled with books on one side and some seating on the other, but Park Place is looking to expand that library with more books.

Jean Brendel is one Park Place resident who takes advantage of the services every month. She said she’s been at the facility for about four and a half years and has been utilizing the Library at Home services since she got there.

"I think it’s wonderful for anybody that likes to read, they should take advantage of the library,” Brendel said.

Brendel sits in the library room with Frincke, another resident and the activity director for Park Place, wondering how to get more people to take advantage of both the ACPL’s services and Park Place’s own library.

She’s a lifelong reader.

“It’s nice to be able to get away in your thoughts and experience what all these people have experienced who’ve written these books," Brendel said.

And it’s not just the books that make these at home services special, but also the connection residents are able to make with Frincke, as their librarian.

Ginny Quance is another Park Place resident. She likes murder mysteries and “well-written” romance novels. In Park Place’s library room, she and Frincke joke about him being able to pick out books for her.

“He thought he could pick out several books for me that I would like from my past lists," Quance said. "Knowing what I like, he could pick me out some books, and I think he probably could.”

Frincke also understands how important that human connection is.

“It’s not always about books," he said. "We kind of inevitably get to know people personally. We get to know their taste in books, we hear their life story, their history.”

He said these one-on-one visits can become a lifeline for people who use the at home services, who have been readers their whole lives and wouldn’t know what to do without their books, but can’t make it to a library branch on their own.

For Quance, she realizes that the connection to reading could be lost.

“I’m losing my vision so, I’m reading as much as I can. Several hours a day," she said.

Brendel isn’t shy about reaching out to Frincke when she needs something from the library.

“I call him up and they probably say ‘Oh, it’s that woman from Park Place again,’” she said.

Brednel said he’s a great help to her and, when he isn’t around, the library always gets him her messages. She said she’s never gotten to have that sort of one-on-one connection with a librarian before.

“You know, everybody feels at home with him," Brendel said. "And I just think he’s the best.”

Frincke said the isolation of COVID-19 has played into that connection as well, as people have lost a lot of ways they stayed connected to one another.

“We’ve seen that and we see how appreciative people are when we show up at their door once a month,” he said.

While not many residents come in and sit and chat with Frincke – others who use the service drop by to pick up their books and head back to their rooms – he said the excitement over reading and having access to the library materials makes it worth it.

"You know, it’s really special seeing someone month after month over four years now that I’ve been doing this and to walk into a room and see smiling faces just because they’re excited about getting their books," Frincke said.

Any Allen County residents can access the Library at Home services to their homes or facilities for free by contacting the Allen County Public Library.

Ella Abbott is a multimedia reporter for 89.1 WBOI. She is a strong believer in the ways audio storytelling can engage an audience and create a sensory experience.