Bookmobiles make resources even more accessible. Here’s how libraries on wheels help those with limited transportation or living in rural communities.
These days, people want things quicker, easier than ever and delivered to their door – and they’re getting it.
Think about it: Amazon delivers in an hour. Many local grocery markets and drug stores will bring your order to your house. Drive-thru lines are not just for burgers and fries, but also for medicines, fancy coffee and dry-cleaned clothing. There are even dog groomers on wheels, the kind that come to your house and spiff up Fido in a van parked at the curb. It’s a get-it-quick world. One place that most would think would never change, though, is the library. Not so.
The Rise of Bookmobiles
Many libraries across the country are adopting the concept of libraries on wheels. Yep, bookmobiles are here, folks. And people love them.
By definition, per Wikipedia, “A bookmobile or mobile library is a vehicle designed for use as a library. It is designed to hold books on shelves in such a way that when the vehicle is parked they can be accessed by readers. Mobile libraries are often used to provide library services to villages and city suburbs that otherwise do not have access to a local or neighborhood branch library. They can also service groups or individuals who have difficulty accessing libraries, for example, occupants of retirement homes. As well as regular books, a bookmobile might also carry large print books, audiobooks, other media, IT equipment and Internet access.”
Why Bookmobiles Are Making a Positive Difference
In Louisiana, the East Baton Rouge Parish Library System adopted its bookmobile mainly to get literature and free resources to communities that didn’t have easy access to a standard brick-and-mortar library. Loaded in multiple gigantic trucks, typically 18-wheeler vehicles, the EBRPL bookmobiles are stocked with music, internet access, books, movies and other library resources.
One of the bookmobiles is wired for video display, boasts multiple computer laptop spaces, and even offers computer classes onboard. Plus, it blows soap bubbles out of the top of the rig, letting passersby know there is fun in learning! They keep on the move various days of the week, making stops at churches, schools, retirement facilities or simply on the street. The goal? If you can’t make it to the library, the library will come to you.
East Texas has also put into action the concept of a library on wheels. The bookmobile at Mineola Memorial Library was founded after community members expressed a need for library services in senior communities such as nursing homes, assisted living and daycares, explained Mary Hurley, director of the Mineola Memorial Library. The 5-year-old bookmobile makes regular stops, multiple times a week.
“At each destination we make what are called ‘lobby stops’ where we take in a couple carts of books and let the residents choose their materials. If we don’t have what they want, we take special requests and deliver them the next trip.”
Special requests may be a particular title or author.
Why have a bookmobile when there’s a library in town? To some it might seem redundant. Hurley says not so. She says, “The point of having the bookmobile is to make books available to those who may not have transportation. We are a retirement community and many of our citizens can no longer drive. This bookmobile makes books available to those who want to continue reading this format. For some of our stops, we serve a social purpose of visiting with those who cannot get out.” Just like in Baton Rouge. And it’s hard to miss the vehicle, as it’s a 25-foot Sprinter van. She says, “You cannot miss us.”
Bookmobiles are also a great resource for those looking to home school. Learn more about homeschooling on your homestead.
How to Find a Bookmobile in Your Area
Call your local library and inquire about a bookmobile in your town or neighboring city. You might not know that your branch has one. The Warren County Public Library in Bowling Green, KY, runs a 40-foot-long, 30,000-pound Blue Bird bus modified to hold almost 6,000 library items, otherwise known as the Mobile Branch. In Topeka, KS, the Topeka and Shawnee County Public Library’s bookmobiles make about 20 stops, six days a week. The Aurora, IL, Public Library runs its bookmobile, while also getting local residents to help in fundraising for community projects, like the building of a neighborhood children’s garden. There are some scattered throughout the entire United States, but oftentimes they aren’t advertised and are more of a word-of-mouth kind of feature.
Once you find them, you’ll find it was worth your trouble.
All photography by Gary Clark, a former Southern Living Magazine travel photographer and photographer of the United States Postal Service 2014 Star-Spangled Banner Forever stamp. See more of Gary's work and contact him at www.thegaryclark.com.