Now or Never

How this 91-year-old library volunteer is bringing books to her fellow seniors

Nellie Befus of Calgary has been delivering books to people for decades. What started out as something to occupy her time has turned into a lifetime of volunteering.

Nellie Befus is the oldest volunteer for Calgary libraries and she has no plans to stop

91-year-old Nellie Befus stands in front of her senior's home library. (Andrew Friesen / CBC)

Back in 1974, Nellie Befus was looking for something to occupy herself.

"You know, your last two kids are gone, and you can only do so much housework all the time," said the 91-year-old Calgarian.

"I was bored!"

At the time, Calgary libraries were looking for volunteers who could deliver books to people who couldn't make it to library branches. Nellie signed up and began a volunteer career that has now lasted over 45 years.

A certificate recognizing Nellie's 45 years of service to the Calgary library system. (Andrew Friesen / CBC)

'We became very good friends'

Nellie's job was to find out what people liked to read, sign out their books, and bike or bus her way to their homes to deliver the reading material. Naturally, she got to know her clients very well. 

There's one woman in particular that Nellie remembers fondly. 

"Her first name was Mary and I had her for a long time," she recalled. "She was a beautiful lady. She made shortbread cookies that were to die for!"

Nellie continued to deliver books until she moved into a senior's home — but that didn't stop her from volunteering. Today, she runs a small library in the activity room of the home she lives in. 

Bringing books to her fellow seniors

Nellie gets deliveries of books from the Calgary library system every four months, and keeps track of what her fellow seniors want to read.

The collection is over 150 books and features lots of westerns and mystery novels, which are popular among her peers.

Nellie was recently presented with a certificate that recognizes her four and a half decades of volunteering.

She's officially the library system's oldest volunteer and is also one of the longest-serving. Nellie says she has no plans to stop. 

"I did it because I needed something to do. I got involved. Here I am, and I'm still doing a library!"

Nellie Befus with her mini-library and Now or Never host Trevor Dineen. (Andrew Friesen / CBC)

Originally aired in April 2019