Library on Wheels

By Christine Volker

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Recently, I spent time with the bookmobile staff and their enthusiastic patrons. As the vehicle pulled up to the waiting throng, shrieks of excitement erupted among the kids. It was almost like a rock band was coming to town. Scrambling into the bookmobile, the kids fanned out, eager to find appealing volumes and to use their brand new library cards. Diary of a Wimpy Kid, and Minecraft, were in short supply, but Goosebumps and other in-demand titles were still available.

Kids traded recommendations, requested assistance, and expressed glee when they found one of their favorites. Viewing the joyful, book-hunting crowd, I thought to myself: this is how it should be. They’re building a skill and a habit for a lifetime.

Three intrepid staff bring the library on wheels to kids at sixteen stops. Many of the locations are far from the Main Library and its two branches; the approach answers the needs of kids who have no other opportunity to visit a library and borrow books, for their parents are working or have other commitments.

The bookmobile puts a smile on everyone’s face.

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The Richmond Public Library has had a bookmobile for as long as staff can remember. The current vehicle is twenty years old, but has a newer“wrap” or external decoration. Currently at capacity with respect to the stops they can make in four days, librarians spend four to six hours per day, in close quarters, helping patrons decide among the roughly 3,000 volumes.

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During the summer, in addition to providing services to summer schools and recreation centers, the staff field tests new locations and determines the routes to take once schools open in the fall.

The bookmobile staff consistently demonstrated their positive energy and zeal while interacting with their small patrons.

I asked them for ideas on how to make the public’s bookmobile experience even better. Here’s what they suggested: iPads or Tablets for checking out books instead of using the computers would be helpful; a bigger book collection would go a long way, particularly including more copies of highly popular books —that way kids scheduled for stops later in the week can get to borrow them; and lastly, a bigger, newer bookmobile.

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