Wednesday, February 03, 2016

Valentines for Homebound Outreach

I share an office with 8 other people spanning two departments. Funnily enough (or “understandably enough”, still undecided) three people who are technically in the same library department as me make up Homebound Services. Together, seven of us are Outreach and Youth Services (or “Outreach”, for short).

If you were to visit our office on any given day, you might catch one of our Homebound staff members reading aloud a list of available romance novels, describing each cover. Or they might read summary after summary of movies a patron might want (I like to play the game of “guess the title” to myself). Their reader’s advisory phone calls are peppered with conversations about their patron’s daily lives.

And sometimes, you might overhear them say something that sparks this particularly popular, caps-locked tweet.

Tweet text: O-M-G our home bound outreach sends their patrons Valentines as if they couldn't get any better!

I figured I would talk a little more about Homebound Outreach’s Valentines. The following is patched together from conversations with Cynthia Peterson, Librarian for Library Outreach Services, Homebound & Caregiver Services mail program. And from my clear excitement that such a thing exists.

Why Valentines? In the past, Homebound has sent Christmas cards or New Year’s cards, but this past fall was a very busy season in our office. As soon as Homebound thought about sending something out, it was too late for New Year—but just in time for Valentine’s Day!

Cynthia brought up that additionally, Valentine’s Day isn’t always the easiest holiday just to forget about—you either LOVE Valentine’s Day, or HATE it. And either way, Homebound wanted to make sure their patrons knew they were thinking about them, and a sweet note tucked into each of the hundreds of bags they circulate monthly is a simple gesture with a big message.

A personal touch: I think just as important as sending these Valentines was what the team included on each Valentine. Every Valentine has the phrase “your librarians” on it. Twice.  I’ve spoken before about the power of owning your home-turf by introducing yourself as “I’m ___, one of your public librarians at your public library” during outreach events. Homebound doubled-down on the message of patron ownership, which holds special meaning when your patrons do not actually visit the library.
Lastly, they included their picture, which has been asked for by multiple patrons. The relationships they’ve built with their patrons allow the staff the trust to send their picture, and the patrons have responded so positively! I’ve overheard phone conversations with patrons that start with an enthusiastic “thank you” for the Valentine—and then, each patron has a guess at which staff member they’ve heard over the phone goes with which picture. The names on the card go in order of the people in the picture, but some patrons cannot believe it! So many joy-filled conversations have stemmed from the simple addition of a postcard-sized letter.
WCCLS Valentine

 This is just an example of the small things librarians do every day that make a big splash in our patrons’ lives.

What do you do to inspire joy at your library during these gray and/or snowy winter months?
How could an initiative like this translate to youth services?


  1. Just decided that I'm coming to visit and hanging out in our office. Kaythanksseeyousoon!