BOOKSHELVES stuffed with tales from faraway worlds and a wealth of facts is just one of the benefits of a public library.

For many families and individuals, the warmth, activities and quiet conversation at Oxfordshire County Council's 43 libraries make them an important community hub.

People unable to get out to a branch, however, are still able to enjoy the benefits thanks to regular visits from the home library service.

Nonagenarian Mary Norcutt is among hundreds of Oxfordshire residents who welcome the service into their homes.

A volunteer from the service stops by once a month to loan her a host of new books to delve into, at her home on the outskirts of Nettlebed near Wallingford.

The 91-year-old does not drive and is unable to travel to Watlington Library more than seven miles away.

As well as providing access to books, audio books, CDs and DVDs, it is a chance for her to welcome a friendly face indoors for a cup of tea or coffee and a chat.

She said: "Someone from the council came to a coffee morning to talk about the home library service and I jumped at it straight away.

"I see Karla [Edis, a volunteer] about once a month and she usually gives me half a dozen books.

"Once I start a book, I motor through it. Fictional detective stories are my favourite and Karla always picks well. We’ve got to know each other’s tastes.

"It’s really nice to have a chat. The hour goes ever so quickly.

"I’m always happy when I know Karla’s coming down. She’s a very sweet person."

The keen reader, whose younger years saw her work at a sawmill, as a gardener and a bookkeeper, said the secret to a long life was keeping her brain active by doing crosswords and jigsaw puzzles.

Demand for the home library service has soared in the past three years, with the number of people using the service rising from 195 in 2015 to more than 800 this year.

There are 225 home library volunteers working across Oxfordshire and the service is on keen to recruit more.

Volunteers can apply online and have to agree to a DBS check.

Kevin Salway, manager of the council's home library service, said "The service makes a massive difference to people’s lives.

"I speak to volunteers and customers and I get an awful lot of satisfaction from the service we are able to provide - for some people, it’s lifesaving.

"It isn’t just about the books, it’s about the social interaction and combating loneliness. It’s about providing a friendly face."

Volunteer Karla Edis, 71, started as a volunteer last year and visits three customers.

She said: "I love every minute of it - it’s very social and I love providing some company for them.

"I’ve always enjoyed books and really like coming into the library and choosing the next lot of books for them."

The retired businesswoman is a well-known face in Watlington, having started the interior decorating business Drapes Design Co on Couching Street in 1982.

She said: "Volunteering was something I wanted to do when I retired. I also volunteer at Nuffield Place and will keep on doing this for as long as I can hold a driving wheel."

The home library service is offered to people of any age who are housebound and cannot get to the library due to disability, illness or full-time caring responsibilities.

Its manager Mr Salway said: "Our aim is to serve people who struggle to get to a library, can’t get to a library or who can get there but can’t carry the books home.

"If somebody wants the service, they will have the service.

"It’s open to any age and we supply everything from books in regular-sized print and large-sized print to audio books on CD, music CDs and DVDs.

"We get requests for everything, from Mills & Boon right through to really gory crime. Some of the older generation really like the blood and gore."

Visits take place once every three weeks and readers are usually given between two and six books.

Volunteers range in age from 18 to a woman in her mid-80s, and the service is expanding.

Mr Salway said: "We are doing a lot of promotions from within the libraries and at WI meetings, talks, care homes, retirement homes ­– word is getting out there."

Sylvia Mullin from Kingston Lisle, near Wantage, has been volunteering for two-and-a-half years and has five customers on her home library service round.

These include a couple from Kingston Lisle who are both 79, two women from Richmond Letcombe Regis Retirement Home in their early 90s, and a woman in her mid-50s from the village who recently suffered a stroke.

The 69-year-old volunteer said: “It’s a very flexible service and I usually go on a Wednesday about every three weeks.

"I spend the whole day on it and they are always very appreciative.

"After a while you really get to know what kind of books they like and they seem to like the books I choose.

"But it’s more than just about the books - you really get to know them and they enjoy talking about their lives. I get a lot of satisfaction from it."

The volunteer's love of books runs in the family – her daughter Zoe White works as a librarian in Witney.

Jackie Cordell, from Horspath, started with the home library service in March last year after a chance meeting with a fellow volunteer at a yoga class.

The 61-year-old started delivering books to three customers at a retirement complex in St Clement's, Oxford, and now her round has grown to five.

The retired research scientist said: "They are all extremely interesting people with a real diverse taste in books.

"One of the ladies has started taking DVDs and is really into Japanese animated films, after spending a lot of time in Japan when she was a child.

"One of the ladies can’t really get out so taking her the books is a real lifeline. Others do have family and friends around them but can still get a little isolated."

The home library service is offered in partnership with Age UK - for information about becoming a volunteer, visit