Checking out the Bookmobile

Checking out the Bookmobile

Q: Darling Ace: I keep seeing this big ol’ bus motoring around the city and the county called the “Bookmobile.” Obviously it’s connected to the local library system, but I’m wondering—what does it do? Who uses it?—Bussed a Move

A: Book learnin’ always makes Ace’s head spin. But for you, Dear Bussed, Ace did his research. Waaaay back in 1946, before even Ace can remember (…much), the City and the County realized that even people who don’t live in urban areas are literate. Enter la Bookmobile. Once a precursor to branch libraries, the Bookmobile still serves the same purpose it did almost 60 years ago: Getting books to people unable, too far away, or too lazy to get to a library.

   As to who’s using it, the answer is plenty of people. According to the Jefferson-Madison Regional Library’s circulation numbers, the Bookmobile’s January 2005 usage increased by a total of 32.7 percent from January 2004. All told, between July 2004 and January 2005 more than 10,000 books were borrowed from the bus-bound bibliotheque, which carries anywhere from 1,500 to 2,000 titles at a time. The books on the bus range from Ace’s favorite genre—mysteries—to picture books for the kiddies, biographies and even large-print materials for the sizable portion of the Bookmobile’s patrons who are senior citizens.

   JMRL’s Director John Halliday tells Ace that the up-tick in Bookmobile usage is due to synching up with the city’s after-school programs, hitting places like Crow Center and the Boys & Girls Club. Drivers Willow Gale (who handles the county) and Adam Rogers (who takes the city routes) also putter around to more than a dozen other sites, including several senior citizen communities. A full schedule of all the stops can be found at www.jmrl.org/br-bookmobile.htm.

   While the 10,000 circulation number is impressive, it’s still just a fraction of the JMRL’s total borrowing (more than 860,000 books were borrowed in the five-county system in the same period last year). And although Halliday says that the idea of cutting the program pops up during lean times, the Powers That Be remain generous with the Bookmobile. The program costs JMRL $54,000 a year, spending $2,700 on diesel gas alone.

   Come fall that money will be going toward a spankin’ new Bookmobile. Halliday says the library just ordered a custom-made rig to replace the current 1991 model. The new model, which should be up and running by year’s end, will sport a satellite Internet hook-up and all sorts of bells and whistles.

   It’s all well and good, but will it come with something to remind Ace to return his overdue library books?

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