National Library Week: My Nightmarish Outreach to the Nursing Home, 1989


I’m a librarian, but I’ve spent only about four months of my professional life in a public library. I was grateful for the opportunity–it was like a paid internship, but with a real title, but I took it knowing–and telling the employer–that I’d be leaving soon for Peace Corps. The Library Director had been one of my instructors, so she agreed.

My nightmare as a public librarian came when I had to do the program at the local nursing home. I was to think of a suitable topic and go over there with a bunch of books for a sort of “Show and Tell” presentation. That sounded good to me. I debated various programs such as childhood games or farm chores or gardening. Finally I latched on to pets. I pulled a various books, marked a James Herriott passage to read aloud and grabbed a stash of the newest bookmark for gifts. I stopped on my way to work and bought some cookies. I dressed nicely in a bright dress. I looked professional and was ready.


I lost them after approximately 3 minutes when Betty started in on her kids giving away the pets they promised to look after if she moved to the “home.” Downhill from there. It was the most caustic group therapy session I ever attended. They interrogated me over what would happen to my folks’ cats and dog when they needed care. They didn’t accept that my brother and I would never put the animals down or even give them away. It got ugly.

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Miss Sparkle (I have no idea what her name was, but she was sure perky) came in after it got heated and loud and tried to ride herd over them. They weren’t buying it. They pretty much annihilated her with the same ease they’d felled me.  Tears were flowing like the Victoria Falls and one woman waled “Sparky!” Another man, who couldn’t let himself cry, chewed his lip and muttered “Mable.” I don’t know if she was a cat, dog, cow or late wife, but he was insistent with it.

Miss Sparkle called for reinforcements and a crash cart soon arrived along with the cleaning lady  As nurses aids, volunteers, the cleaning lady and I all tried to comfort the bereaved and restore order, Miss Sparkle motioned for me to go. She managed to mime that I should leave the cookies. Ok, she’d earned them.

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As I rammed the last book into my satchel, the cleaning lady switched the muted TV over to Oprah, well it was 1989 maybe it was Phil Donahue, and once the sound was able to be heard in Kenosha, Wisconsin (we were in a suburb of Indianapolis, not that it really matters),  they began to quiet down. As I headed out, I heard the cookie container being wrenched open.

This grisly ordeal taught me several good lessons:

  1. Have a care plan in your will for your pets.
  2. Tie the money to their regular visits at the home.
  3. Public libraries are not the venue of choice for all librarians.


National Library Week posts continue tomorrow.




3 thoughts on “National Library Week: My Nightmarish Outreach to the Nursing Home, 1989

  1. I enjoy autobiographical tales …! You sure got a perky bunch. Most nursing home residents I’ve been around are largely silent! At least you can see the humor in it (now, at least!)!

    Liked by 1 person

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