Overton Brooks VA Medical Center
Veterans exchange books, smiles
“We’re handing out tender loving care,” Sarah Logan said. “We’re probably the most welcome visit a Veteran will receive all day— we’re not drawing their blood or giving them shots, we’re giving them something to read.”
Sarah, Library Technician, Overton Brooks VA Medical Center, speaks of the “Ward Cart,” a library on four wheels used to deliver books throughout the hospital; books donated by patients, family members and employees alike, a collective effort that makes up “The Book Exchange” located in the Medical Center library.
“The library’s mission is to provide resources to clinical staff,” Sarah said, “However; I really believe that a close second mission is to provide a more comfortable environment for patients in the hospital by giving them something to read.”
For this reason, Sarah passes out cards to hospital patrons with contact information for questions and requests. Cards detail the books that are available and a phrase— “Ask for a bag with a handle.”
“First we try to get books to Veterans who are there for inpatient treatment. From there—patients who are mobile, family members, then staff. We do ask that people make a good-faith effort in returning books. If you take a book leave another. We have three categories— westerns, non-westerns and large print. If you take a western, please leave a western. If you take a large print, please leave a large print. Although, if a Veteran really wants to keep a book, he or she can.”
Non-westerns run the gamut of science-fiction, mysteries and other genres, large print consists of almost anything; however, mostly westerns, according to Sarah.
“I’ve noticed a lot of women like to read books where people are kissing and the men like stuff with a lot of shooting,” Sarah said, laughing. “Of course, if they read mysteries they’ll get a fair amount of both.”
The Book Exchange also gives Veterans a chance to interact with each other as Veterans deliver books to Veterans who are receiving treatment in the Medical Center.
“It’s great to interact with other Veterans,” Irvin Calhoun, Veteran, says. “Just to see the smile on their face does a lot of good.” Irvin sifts through books to load the Ward Cart, which will be taken around to various wards of the hospitals to Veterans.
“I think that saying ‘Hi’ and talking to them does a lot more good than reading,” Irvin Calhoun said. “Just seeing that smile on their face is a wonderful thing. They look forward to us coming around. Many of them don’t have families who visit here so we might be the only people they get to talk to.”
Irvin, a Veteran in the Medical Center’s Incentive Therapy program delivers books alongside Stacie Hall, a Veteran in the same program.
“This doesn’t just help Veterans,” Stacie says. “It helps us. The interaction that we have with these Veterans is part of our therapy. You have to be a real people person to do this kind of work.”
Those who frequent the Medical Center— Veterans, family members and employees alike— are encouraged to take advantage of the Free Book Exchange. Those wishing to make donations or an exchange should call (318) 990-5061 or (318) 990-5181. The library is located on the Medical Center’s second floor, in the west wing, at Room 2 West 4, not far from The Canteen.