Averaging almost a book a day, Jimmie Cooley just might be the most prolific reader in Payson.
But when you're on a fixed income, reading can be an expensive pastime. Fortunately for Cooley, the Library Friends of Payson offers a special homebound program for people just like her.
Through the program, volunteers deliver books, tapes, and other library material to people who are homebound.
"We cover Powell House, Payson Care Center, Manzanita Manor, and private homes," Carol Breen, who, along with Becky Karras coordinates the program, said. "We go to Payson and Star Valley, but not to Pine or Strawberry (which are serviced by their own library)."
Individuals who sign up for the program are provided volunteers, given library cards, and interviewed to determine their reading preferences.
Every three weeks, the volunteer visits the member's residence to pick up the books that have been read and drops off a new supply.
"Most people want one or two books," Breen said. "There are a couple that want three or four.
"Jimmie (Cooley) is unusual. Jimmie wants 15 books every three weeks, and she reads them. She knows her authors. She's delightful to talk with about authors."
Cooley watches videotaped movies on her television and avoids cable programming.
"There's nothing worth watching on TV, and it's too expensive for fixed income people anyway," Cooley said. "There's very few programs I'd even watch."
Which is a positive attitude, according to Breen, because a good book can take you anywhere you want to go.
"You can travel in books; you can have adventures in books," Breen said.
"If you have a vivid imagination," Cooley added.
Cooley thinks reading is becoming a lost art.
"Kids today are bored," she said. "They don't have anything to do. But they've never been taught to read, and (to experience) the enjoyment you can get out of reading."
Cooley, who has 18 grandchildren, said her family is afraid she gets bored living alone.
"I don't," she said. "I like my own company, and I've always got a friend here on the shelf with my books."
Although she belongs to the Doubleday Book Club, Cooley's fixed income would quell her voracious appetite for books if it weren't for the homebound program.
"She's been in the program since it began over four years ago," Breen said. "I've done her for almost three years, and I'll bet I've taken over 500 books to her."
So many books that Breen had to come up with a better delivery system.
"After the first year I got tennis elbow from carrying great big bags stuffed with 15 books, so I bought this wonderful thing which I call my bookmobile," Breen said. "It makes into a cart immediately and folds up like a suitcase."
Cooley's ravenous reading has created some other challenges for Breen.
"Jimmie's getting hard, because there's not a lot of new books for her," she said. "Sometimes it takes me two hours to find them."
But the rewards are well worth it.
"The beauty of it is you become friends with these people," Breen said. "They become important to you. You get as much from the program as you give."
Breen said other homebound program volunteers relate similar experiences.
"I had a volunteer who moved up here from the Valley, and she said she was never going to do volunteer work again," Breen said. "I got her on the homebound program and she said to me, ‘This is the most exciting and important volunteer work I've ever done.'"
The program is a great way for Rim country newcomers to meet people and become involved in the community.
"One of beautiful things is that it's such a great opportunity to build new relationships between members of the community," Breen said. "So many of my patrons say, ‘I just love the person who calls on me,' and my volunteers say, ‘She is the neatest little old lady. She is just a dear.'"
Cooley and Breen have become friends.
"We talk about authors, but we also talk about our personal lives too," Breen said. "We sit and chat."
Breen wants to expand the homebound program. They could always use more volunteers, and especially program recipients.
"We would love to have anyone interested in getting on the program," she said. "You don't have to be elderly. It's for anyone who has difficulty getting to library."
The relationship works both ways.
"It becomes an important part of their lives," Breen said. "You would be surprised how many calls I get saying, ‘My books are almost due. Is so-and-so going to come?'"
First and foremost, the program gets books in the hands of those who otherwise might not have access to them.
"I've been a patron of the library since 1974, ever since I've been in Payson," Cooley said. "I'd be lost if I couldn't read."
Fliers on the Library Friends homebound program are available at the Payson Public Library, senior centers, and other locations in Payson. You can also join or get more information by calling Carol Breen at (928) 468-8670. The program is free.