We’re excited to be spotlighting Charmaine Atrooshi, who works in the Homebound Services department of the Ottawa Public Library. She is passionate about social justice, and providing equitable library services in order to build strong communities. She has been in her current role for the past seven years, and spends most of her days providing readers’ advisory services to her homebound customers. She believes robust readers’ advisory skills and services are important in public libraries as they help to connect people, and provide access to library materials that help us relax, learn and escape….. Charmaine holds a Master of Arts in Legal Studies (Carleton University), Bachelor of Arts Honours in Law (Carleton) and a Bachelor of Arts in Criminology (Carleton). She is currently pursuing an MLIS online with the University of Alberta, and is looking forward to fusing her legal background with librarianship.
A nice place to start is with your library origin story – how did you become involved with the Ottawa Public Library (OPL)?
I started working for OPL as a summer student while I was completing my first undergraduate degree. My role was to provide children’s programming in rural library branches. I later applied for a paging position, was hired on permanently, and here we are now, 11 years (and several different roles and degrees) later! Public libraries are a dynamic place to work—they are constantly changing, innovating, and creating new ways to reach out to their communities in order to construct services and programming that are relevant to their needs. Every day brings something new and exciting!
Can you describe what Homebound Services does, those who use it, and why it’s essential to your community?
Homebound services is a department that selects and delivers library materials to OPL customers who have difficulty accessing a library branch on a regular basis due to age, illness or disability. The majority of our customers are older adults and seniors. We offer two types of services; one is a home delivery service where library materials are selected monthly by staff and delivered to their door, and the other is a mini library service where we bring a selection of library materials to various retirement residents for the residents to peruse and select from. We have around 500 customers that we select for monthly, as well as approximately 150 mini library customers.
Services like these are really important in our community as they help to remove barriers to access, provide equitable library service, promote information literacy, and are a means of connecting customers with the resources, materials and services they require. We encourage our customers to contact us with feedback on their selections, and to request titles/authors they enjoy.
Has having access to digital galleys/proofs impacted your collection development strategy? Has it also affected the types of titles you recommend to your customers/patrons?
Having access to digital galleys assists greatly when it comes to recommending and selecting titles for our Homebound customers. Many want to hear what the next ‘big thing’ is, and to find read-alikes for their favorite authors, and they look to us for feedback. Reading the blurbs on NetGalley and having the opportunity to access some of these materials ahead of time is great, as it helps me keep my finger on the pulse of publishing trends—so when someone asks me for the next “Girl on the Train” I can provide some great suggestions for new thrillers!
OPL has a centralized content services department that is responsible for the materials selection for all 33 Ottawa Public Library branches (plus Homebound and Bookmobile Services). They do a great job of providing us with materials that are relevant to the needs of our Homebound customers, and are always open to suggestions for items we think our customers would enjoy.
Do you have a favorite moment when you provided someone with a book?
Years ago, I read a book from NetGalley called Calling Me Home by Julie Kibler.
I loved it so much—Kibler painted such a vivid, incredible (slightly heartbreaking) story and I knew that this was something that many of our Homebound customers (and colleagues) would enjoy. I sent this title to many of our historical fiction/family sagas customers in hopes they would enjoy as much as I had—and I was right. A few people who we rarely heard from contacted us to say how much they enjoyed this—and would like more by this author (unfortunately, she hasn’t published anything else yet – but we found some read-alikes in the interim). One customer at a mini library enjoyed it so much, she gave a mini book talk to the other residents in the room- encouraging them to read it as she enjoyed it so much! It was a great feeling!
Which upcoming book(s) on NetGalley are you the most excited about recommending?
Jojo Moyes- Paris for One & Other stories (as we have a big Moyes following) and Blake Crouch’s Dark Matter. I don’t read a lot in the science fiction/fantasy type of genre, but Crouch had this way of sucking you in right from the first chapter. I couldn’t put it down—it was a refreshing shift from what I normally read and I think many others would also find this book captivating! Mini libraries are excellent opportunities for recommending titles and having readers’ advisory conversations—these chats help us all to expand our reading horizons and try new titles/authors/genres that we may not have picked up otherwise.
What is the most requested title in your library?
We have had a lot of requests recently from our homebound customers for Jojo Moyes and Louise Penny titles as well as Giller Prize winning authors.
And to finish up, what is the last book that made you smile?
I Regret Nothing by Jen Lancaster
Thanks so much Charmaine, for spending time with us and answering our questions!
Please make sure to check out the Ottawa Public Library and their Homebound Services!
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*Interviewed by Tarah Theoret