Program benefits from United Way funds

Editor’s Note: This is the next in a series of articles about the member agencies of the United Way Alliance of the Mid-Ohio Valley.

PARKERSBURG – The Talking Books Program at the Parkersburg and Wood County Public Library helps those who are are visually impaired still enjoy books and all they offer.

With the aid of the United Way Alliance of the Mid-Ohio Valley, $2,500 is provided for the Blind and Handicapped Service Coordinator. Stacey Varner has served as the full-time coordinator for the Talking Books Department since August. Through the program, eligible patrons are provided with audiobooks free of charge.

“It is a lot of work, and it takes a lot of time, I’m not sure what would become of the program if we didn’t have the United Way funds,” Varner said.

The free service loans the recorded books to residents who are unable to read or use standard print because of a visual or physical impairment.

Larry Numrich, who is legally blind, is a regular patron of the Talking Books Program.

“This program allows me to listen to books using a machine and the books and the machine are provided at no charge. I can call and ask Stacey to find a book if I’m unable to get out and she mails it to me. She’s very patient with everyone getting acclimated to using the machine,” he said.

Numrich said he used to read all the time before he lost some of his sight.

“This works remarkably well and I can have several books so if I start one and don’t like it, I can start another one,” he said.

Varner said there are no late fees in the program, patrons can keep the books longer and there is no limit on the number of books they can order at one time.

“Although we try not to overhelm the postal carriers,” she said.

The United Way funds are used to partially fund the program coordinator’s salary. It is a full-time position and the library provides funding for the salary as well.

Varner has been program coordinator since August, and worked at the library for more than four years before starting at her current job.

“I really enjoy this, I hope to stay a long time. I think I finally found my niche,” she said.

The books are all digital and are played on a player provided to the patrons. The patrons apply for the program and then can e-mail, call or stop by or have a family member/friend stop by to pick up their selections. They are provided with a catalog listing the books available. There is a large selection including western, romance, romance, non-fiction, fiction, children’s literature People can choose from current best sellers, mysteries, classics, biographies and historical novels as well as books about history, science, psychology, inspirational materials and the Bible.

“They just let us know the genre they are interested in,” Varner said, adding the program works through the West Virginia Library Commission in Charleston if there are selections not available locally.

To apply, get information or schedule a speaker, contact Stacey Varner, Talking Book Department Coordinator at the Parkersburg and Wood County Public Library, 3100 Emerson Ave., Parkersburg, call 304-420-4587, extension 503 or e-mail

The program currently has 200 active patrons, many of whom are elderly. It will be celebrating its 45th anniversary next year.