Tales From the Road

bookmobile general 3

Life on the bookmobile is a bit different from the other JMRL branches.  We all have our ups and downs, our good days and bad, but there are some situations one only encounters out on the road.

I knew the end was near when the tow truck drivers started smiling and waving whenever they passed me on the road.  Our good old ELF (extreme low floor) bookmobile died last April, 2016.  A broken part was no longer replaceable, so that was the end.  It had been towed to the City Yard to find out if they could fix it and when it was determined that they couldn’t, I had to fetch it back to the library.  It was the scariest 20 minutes of my life!  The vehicle was all askew and I didn’t dare go over 20 mph.  I made it safely back and told my Director, my part-time helper, and anyone in the parking lot that no one is ever driving that vehicle again!  My assistant and I proceeded to empty the big bus and get the minivan ready to substitute (our “mini-mobile” as the patrons like to call it).

The Library went through the process of putting the old bus up for sale and, once it had been emptied, it needed to go back to the City Yard until a buyer was found.  The intrepid Billy (who does all the mechanical work) decided it needed to go out in style.  Over my protests, he decided to drive it back to the Yard.  The Yard had an intern at the time and the young man had come with Billy to make the ride back.  Before they took off, Billy preset all the radio stations to country and rock and roll, since he knew there was an exterior speaker up on the roof.  Billy cranked it up, blasted the music outside, and started down Rte 29.   (They were followed by a regular City truck, just in case.)  Each time the radio station would come up on a commercial, Billy pushed the next button to keep the music going.  They stopped behind a Jeep at one red light and totally confused the driver, who couldn’t figure out from whence the music came.  At another intersection, the homeless woman who was panhandling knew the source immediately.  She jumped up and danced through the song, giving Billy a grin and a big thumbs up when the light finally changed.  Meanwhile, the young intern was sinking lower and lower in his passenger seat.  Luckily, they made it back safely.  Later, the bookmobile was bought by a junk yard in Lynchburg to be sold for parts.   It was towed to its final resting place!

It’s been a long year in the minivan and we all, staff and patrons alike, eagerly await the arrival of a new vehicle next month.  Meanwhile, we have good stories and fond memories of the old bus.  RIP, Moby Dick!


small books


The warm weather is calling us outdoors!  Whether we’re gardening or jogging or strolling the Downtown Mall, we’re happy to enjoy the onset of Spring.  So this weekend, I’ll offer a few small books, books you might read over the weekend and still have time to play outside.

Grief is the Thing with Feathers by Max Porter

A father and his two sons are grieving the sudden loss of their wife and mother.  Who shows up to help them?  Crow – trickster, instigator, babysitter and therapist –  who “finds humans dull except in grief” and threatens to stay until they no longer need him.  This unusual story is told from the three voices – Dad, the Boys, and Crow – as months go by and this little family moves through its sadness and begins to recover.  With poetry woven throughout, this is quite an extraordinary little book!

The Uncommon Reader by Alan Bennett

One of my favorites and not just because it involves a bookmobile!   Following her corgis from the garden, Queen Elizabeth is led to the bookmobile parked by the palace kitchen doors.  Always polite, she steps aboard to apologize for the dogs’ behavior and, for the first time in her life, is offered the opportunity to read something for pleasure.  This act changes all her relationships: with her staff, other heads of state, the British people, and herself.   This small book will cause you to reflect, laugh, and examine the power of the written word.

Bachelor Brothers’ Bed & Breakfast by Bill Richardson

A sweet little book, this one is for lovers of literature everywhere.   Bachelor twins Hector and Virgil consider their B&B a refuge for gentle, bookish people like themselves.   Guests may bring their own books or peruse the brothers’ considerable library.  So whether one is looking for some quiet time to finally make it through War and Peace or happily re-reading Beatrix Potter yet again, all are welcomed by these delightful brothers.

BookShots series by James Patterson

James Patterson has a theory that some folks today aren’t willing, or able, to commit to reading an entire novel.  To address this issue, last year he started publishing “BookShots” – small paperback novels, complete at 150 pages or less, that sell for $4.95.  Some of these stories include his regular characters (e.g. Michael Bennett and Alex Cross) and some introduce new protagonists.  I’m not sure whether they’re such a success because of their size or because of Patterson’s popularity, but they have been a hit.  JMRL has quite a few in our catalogue which are searchable under “keyword: book shots.”  Check them out!

Tales from the Road

bookmobile general 3

Life on the bookmobile is a bit different from the other JMRL branches.  We all have our ups and downs, our good days and bad, but there are some situations one only encounters out on the road.

With the bookmobile, I visit country stores and post offices, some neighborhoods, several preschools, and many senior communities.  These last are always my busiest stops; patrons are waiting for me to arrive, book bags and request lists in hand.  I go to JABA-sponsored low income complexes, the fanciest communities up on the hill, and everything in between.  I was well into middle age when I started on the Bookmobile, it was a perfect time to look forward to discover the possibilities.

It has been an honor and a privilege to work with so many seniors over the years.  I have heard some amazing stories of times past and lives lived around the world; I’ve met their families, talked about books, and commiserated over illnesses.  We’ve moved through the stages of regular print to large print to audiobooks.  They’ve moved from independent living to assisted living to nursing care, often with stops in health care and hospice.  We’ve shared laughter, tears, fears, and some heart-breaking moments.

The first time I learned one of my regular patrons had passed away, I was reading the Sunday paper.  The obituaries came up as I turned the page, and there was a picture of one of my ‘little ladies.’  I was taken aback and glad I was home alone.  I’ve learned since then to check the obituaries regularly.

Over the years, I’ve interacted with many staff members, aides, volunteers, family members and surrogate family members who care for these elders.  As a whole, it is an amazing group of people who give of their time and attention from the kindness of their hearts.   I’d like to hope that I add some small measure of care myself.