The first book Joanne Garver read cover-to-cover was a children's version of the adventure classic "Robinson Crusoe."

She found it when she was 8 years old on the second floor of her grandmother's "rambling country house" in Indiana.

She's now 81 and a Tucsonan living in Barrio Viejo, and health issues have made it difficult for her to leave her adobe row house, so the books come to her.

The Pima County Public Library, through a partnership with the Pima County Bike Ambassadors, has made it convenient for homebound book lovers to enjoy good reads through a monthly delivery service called Books on Wheels, recently started at three Tucson branches.

Garver is one of three people using the service at the Joel D. Valdez Main Library, but the downtown branch is hoping to expand its reach, said Karen Greene, the adult-services librarian who launched the program.

Greene previously worked for several years at the Joyner-Green Valley Branch Library, which had a staff member who delivered books to homebound patrons. When that employee retired, that position wasn't filled, Greene said.

Because of the sizable homebound population in Green Valley, Greene made it a volunteer program, and it has been serving patrons for more than five years.

"There were a lot of folks who had to give up their car keys," she said, "They couldn't drive anymore, and the fact that people could come and bring them books they were interested in was really huge."

About a year ago Greene was working with Matt Zoll, the bicycle and pedestrian program manager with the Pima County Department of Transportation, on another library program and suggested having bike ambassadors deliver books to patrons.

Zoll jumped on board, she said.

Greene presented the idea to Tucson-area library branches to see if they would be interested in being part of the pilot program. The Himmel Park and Murphy-Wilmot branches joined the effort in October and the Main Library in February.

"We didn't want to overextend ourselves so we started really small to make sure that we can actually do this," Greene said.

Library volunteers select books for users of the service based on their interests or requests. When possible the branches try to match volunteers and patrons with similar reading interests, Greene said.

A bike ambassador picks up the books once a month at the branches, delivers them and returns any the patron has finished.

Garver spends a lot of time reading about local history, eager to learn more about the city her mother, a nurse at the Desert Sanatorium, and her father, a real estate agent, called home for several years.

Once a month, Susan Reed, picks up books for Garver at the Main Library and pedals over to her house where the two spend about an hour discussing authors, books, the memoir Garver is writing and whatever else comes to mind.

"(She) is super bright and delightful to spend time with," Reed said. "I always leave her place feeling like I'm the one who's been gifted rather than she."

Volunteers needed

The library is looking for more volunteers to help select books for patrons using the Books on Wheels service.

A training session where interested people can learn more about the service and responsibilities is scheduled for July 20 at 8:30 a.m. at the Joel D. Valdez Main Library, 101 N. Stone Ave.

To reserve a spot for the session, email or call the library's Infoline at 791-4010.

Contact reporter Veronica Cruz at or at 573-4224.