Lifetime reader donates treasure trove

Published 3:00 pm Wednesday, June 1, 2016


AMERICUS — It began with her father’s failing eyesight.
However, Lorena Barnum Sabbs’ love of books started years before the declining health of her father, the John L. Barnum. She has a lifetime love of reading and so it was natural to turn to audio books, initially known as books on tape, as a good form of diversion and entertainment for her ailing father.
“We initially borrowed books on tape from Lake Blackshear Regional Library,” says Sabbs. “They even had a tape player we borrowed. Daddy loved listening to those books and we listened along with him. It was so much fun and we saw how much pleasure they gave him and we enjoyed discussing them afterwards.”
Sabbs slowly drifted away from audio books after her father died in 1985, until some years later. That’s when she found herself in a large chain bookstore, wandering around in the audio section when a stranger suggested she buy the audio version of Deen Koontz’ suspense novel, “Intensity,” then on the best seller list.
“It was an expensive audio, but I treated myself and I fell in love with the book,” says Sabbs. She shared it with friends and colleagues Shirley Polk and Martha Barnum at Barnum Funeral Home. “They became hooked on it too and we loved discussing it afterwards, even agreeing that Chyna was our favorite character.”
Unknowingly, Sabbs was creating a hobby that grew to huge proportions over the years. She would get attached to an author and buy the audio version of all their novels.
“I’ve listened to every one of John Grisham’s and when TV personality Oprah started her book club I bought what Oprah recommended,” she says. She continued to collect what appealed or best sellers and shared them with Polk, Barnum and other friends.
“We had so much fun sharing these audios and we liked the freedom to do other things while listening,” says Sabbs. “I’ve worked for hours painting a room, gardening, cooking and driving. It’s not like sitting down in a corner to read a book.”
The collection became so vast that Sabbs started a lending library, allowing friends to borrow the audios on the honor system that they must be returned. For Christmas one year, her husband Darryl Sabbs even gave her a special bookcase to store the collection.
As technology advanced from books on tape to disc to now being able to download on varied digital devices, Sabbs decided to find a good home for the huge collection.
She found it at the Lenora G. Lambert Community Center on Jackson Street, where she recently presented the director, Alice Faye Bridges, with multiple boxes filled with almost 400 audio books along with a tape player.
“We received a lot of joy out of these audio books and we want others to get joy out of them, too. I knew they would be in good hands at the Center, provide a lot of entertainment and be a lot of company to our senior citizens,” says Sabbs.
“We are very grateful for this generous donation,” says Bridges. “We have a limited library and this is a wonderful addition and our senior citizens will enjoy them so much.”
Bridges plans to house the audios in a space where they are readily available and possibly develop a lending library based on the honor system in the future. Meanwhile, she is looking for additional bookcases to keep the vast collection.
The Lenora G. Lambert Community Center serves an average of 35-37 seniors from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. Mondays through Fridays.