For immediate release | February 8, 2011

Queens Library’s innovative programming for homebound wins ASCLA/KLAS/NOD award

CHICAGO -- The Association of Specialized and Cooperative Library Agencies (ASCLA) has selected the Queens Library Mail-A-Book Program with Interactive Programming for the homebound as the winner of the 2011 ASCLA/KLAS/NOD award, sponsored by Keystone Systems.

The ASCLA/Keystone Library Automation Systems/National Organization for Disabilities Award presents $1,000 and a citation to an innovative and well-organized project that successfully developed or expanded services for people with disabilities. The award can be for a specific service, program or for a library that has made its total services more accessible through changing physical and/or attitudinal barriers. This year’s recipient used funds from the Harry and Jeanette Weinberg Foundation to fulfill a longtime wish to expand library services to 750 homebound and disabled library customers and 35 assisted care facilities. However, the program, which was profiled in the July 2010 issue of AARP’s magazine “Modern Maturity” and also featured in the December 2, 2009 “Queens Gazette," goes beyond book delivery to offer a wide range of interactive programming for the homebound. With a relatively small investment in a new teleconferencing console and toll-free phone number, library staff offered phone access for homebound customers to dozens of live programs, including concerts and guest speakers.

The library initiated its interactive program offerings in response to survey results showing homebound customers feel isolated, bored and starved for peer relationships. Library staff also offer weekly phone chats, where homebound patrons can meet others and foster new friendships as well as participate in bingo, book clubs and special programs. For example, the Metropolitan Museum of Art presented a multi-part lecture series where print reproductions of artworks were sent to registered participants in advance. The library also arranged a special luncheon for the weekly chat participants at a local restaurant where 12 of the regulars were able to attend, traveling by disability transport in wheelchairs and with walkers and accompanied by family members and home health aides.

Thanks to the hard work of Program Manager Madlyn Schneider, Queens Library at Queens Village, and Senior Librarian Willie Simmons, the live interactive services have proven to be an important and significant expansion to the Mail A Book library services for the homebound and persons with disabilities. From the initial plan for a pilot of six interactive phone-in programs with five people on each call in 2009, the program quickly expanded to 60 live programs in 2009 and 83 live programs in 2010. The program continues to expand its offerings of multi-lingual library materials in Chinese, French, Spanish, Russian and Hindi to serve the diverse community of Queens, but still seeks the resources to do extended outreach to the homebound in non-English speaking communities.

“Using an abundance of creativity and imagination, the caring staff of the Queens Library Mail-A-Book program used low-cost, interactive technology to enrich the lives of persons with disabilities in their community,” said Diana Reese, ASCLA president. “They put their hearts into leaping over physical and attitudinal barriers and making the total services of the Queens Library more accessible and reached homebound customers with a host of engaging library offerings that brought regular social interaction and lifelong learning opportunities from the Queens Library into their living rooms. The nominator described program outcomes as having the 'quality of a near-miracle.' With this award, ASCLA, Keystone Systems, Inc. (KLAS) and the National Organization on Disability (NOD) recognize and congratulate the staff of the Queens Library for their pioneering role in offering innovative library services that deliver miraculous outcomes for their homebound populations.”

ASCLA President Diana Reese will officially present the award to the Queens Library at the ASCLA/COSLA Reception on from 8 - 10 p.m. on Sunday, June 26 at the 2011 ALA Annual Conference in New Orleans. This event, open to all ALA Conference attendees, will be held at an ALA Conference hotel. The exact room location will be announced in late spring.

ASCLA, a division of the American Library Association (ALA), is a diverse organization of librarians and staff who work in state library agencies, agencies providing library services to populations with special needs, library cooperatives and those independent librarians who are self-employed. Not an ASCLA member, but interested in discounted registration rates on conference, ASCLA preconferences and other ASCLA events? Join, renew or add ASCLA to your ALA membership at


Elizabeth Markel