Tales from the Road

bookmobile general 3


Peg Watson, who works full time at our Crozet branch, was interested to learn more about the bookmobile and rode along with me for a day recently. Here are her observations:

“Tales from the Road” by Peg Watson, Guest Columnist

An elderly gentleman hurried along the outer edge of the sidewalk as Willow maneuvered the brand new JMRL bookmobile within inches of a line of parked cars at our second stop of the day, another retirement community. I marveled at how close Willow could get to the parked vehicles without hitting any of them, while she pointed out that Mr. Speedy managed to position himself front and center of the handicap access aisle, once again being first in line when the bookmobile doors opened. Those moving along with walkers, canes, and caretakers lined up behind him more focused on all the pleasures of a mobile library than on winning a foot race. The arrival of the bookmobile was obviously a special part of their routines. I was so glad that I had picked this particular day in the bookmobile’s twice-a-month schedule, a day filled with several retirement communities and one rural area stop.

My ride along day began when I pulled into Northside Library’s parking lot and didn’t see the Bookmobile nor any obvious location markers. Venturing into the building with the library not yet actually open, I peered at various doors on the lower level, most brown and without signs. Hmm. Maybe I should have clarified how to find Willow and the Bookmobile branch.

Heading back outside, I called Willow from my cell phone, and there she saw me outside her office window. It turns out the Bookmobile branch entrance is a plain gray door. With the Bookmobile services being totally mobile, there isn’t any reason to highlight the location.

Inside the Bookmobile’s area on the lower level of what’s commonly known as the Northside Library building, Willow and Alan have created a wonderful setup for a mobile library. There’s interior garage space for the Bookmobile vehicle not far from the door of the Bookmobile branch library. The stacks are neat and tidy with a plentiful collection to pull from as checked out items on the bookmobile’s shelves need to be restocked daily. Along one wall they’ve organized shelves for patron holds at each of the daily stops. The opposite wall has a long counter for processing the daily delivery to and from other JMRL branches. This tiny mobile branch library with just one full-time and one part-time employee has an amazing circulation.

The most surprising aspect of the day was the number of patrons accessing library services at a rural area stop.  We pulled off a county road into a gravel lot near a post office. Willow had just gotten the bookmobile parked in the best spot for patron access when the first car pulled up. Every few minutes another vehicle would pull up, the patron or patrons would browse through the selection of items on the bookmobile, and chat with Willow while checking out, all the while creating incredibly strong connections between the community and their public library system.

The entire experience of riding along on the new bookmobile was fantastic. This outreach service is obviously highly valued by the community members it supports, and I am so happy our local community supports the JMRL Bookmobile branch.



This past weekend, I attended my 45th high school reunion and I’ve been reading memoirs lately.  I seem to be having a nostalgic summer and it’s been lovely!   The books recommended this week are interesting, enlightening, well written and very different from each other.  Hopefully, you’ll find something to suit your mood.

You Don’t Have to Say You Love Me  by Sherman Alexie

Award-winning author Alexie has long been one of my favorites.  An honest voice for modern-day life on American Indian reservations, many of his poems, stories and novels have had bits of autobiography in them.  Recounting the complicated relationship he had with his mother, this full-fledged memoir could not have been written until after his mother had passed away.  She was a quilter and was 78 years old when she died in 2015.  Alexie has constructed this book as a quilt, built of 78 poems and 78 essays.  It’s a difficult story, because life on the rez is difficult and because their relationship was difficult, too.  As usual, though, Alexie tells it all with openness, heartbreak, and humor.

On the Move: a Life  by Oliver Sacks

Neurologist and accomplished author, Sacks is well known for his collections of case studies such as The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat, An Anthropologist on Mars and Seeing Voices: A Journey into the World of the Deaf.  His bestseller, Awakenings, was made into a feature film starring Robin Williams and Robert DeNiro.  This final autobiography (he died in 2015 at the age of 82) recounts a life well lived and shares intimate details which had not been made public before.  At once extremely shy and quite daring, he moved from his native Britain to California and eventually to New York City, collecting a wealth of  friendships and adventures along the way.  And yes, that is him on the cover of the book.  He had always had a love of motorbikes and spent the early ’60’s on Venice Beach (CA) as a body builder!  Listening to the audio, I found it easy to absorb the medical terms and phrases.

Here If You Need Me: a True Story  by Kate Braestrup

The first in her series of memoirs was published in 2007 and after having read it, I wanted to be her when I grew up!  (Never mind that I’m probably ten years older than she is.)  In Here If You Need Me, Braestrup recounts how her husband, and the father of their four children, was killed in the line of duty as a Maine State Trooper. To help deal with her tremendous grief, she chose to pursue his dream – to become a minister. Enrolling in divinity school, caring for her grieving family, and trying to keep the day-to-day together, Braestrup persevered and became a Unitarian Universalist minister. She then found her calling as the first chaplain for the search-and-rescue teams across the state of Maine. It’s a moving, inspirational story that reminds us that it’s the small miracles that happen every day.  An accomplished writer, Braestrup continued to relate her journey with two more books: Marriage and Other Acts of Charity in 2010 and the most recent, Anchor and Flares: a Memoir of Motherhood, Hope and Service, in which she faces her eldest son’s choice to join the military.  Beautifully done.

A Girl Named Zippy: Growing Up Small in Mooreland, Indiana  by Haven Kimmel

Born in 1965  in quintessential small-town America, Kimmel was nicknamed Zippy for the way she raced around the house.  Growing up in the tiny hamlet of Mooreland – where neighbors helped neighbors, people went to church on Sundays,  and everyone knew everyone else – Kimmel shares glimpses of life in a gentler time.  Laced with humor and wonderful 3rd-grade insights, A Girl named Zippy is a love letter to Kimmel’s home town.





Many of us have just spent the Fourth of July cooking burgers, drinking beer, and watching fireworks.   Some of us may have been at Monticello witnessing the swearing-in of new U.S. citizens; some of us may be those new citizens.  Some of us may have been at cemeteries placing flags on the graves of loved ones.  Some of us may have been working because our jobs don’t accommodate many holidays; some of us may have been working because the work we do to serve others doesn’t ever take a holiday.  Some of us may have been talking with our children about what freedom means.  Some of us may have been arguing with our friends and relatives about the state of our country today.  All of us are Americans.

Patriotism takes many forms: some quiet and some bold, some gentle and some heroic, mostly it’s just regular folks living their lives.  Today’s suggestions may help broaden our definition.

Hidden America : from Coal Miners to Cowboys, an Extraordinary Exploration of the Unseen People Who Make This Country Work  by Jeanne Marie Laskas

An award-winning journalist, Laskas does her usual in-depth research to introduce us to some of the folks who make our lives run smoothly every day.  Starting in the coal mines of Ohio, she then goes on to an Alaskan oil rig, a migrant labor camp in Maine, the air traffic control center at LaGuardia Airport in New York, a beef ranch in Texas, a landfill in California, a long-haul trucker in Iowa, a gun shop in Arizona, and the Cincinnati Ben-Gals cheerleaders.   Eminently readable, Laskas’ stories not only reveal the world of work that supports our society, but also open up the worlds of the individuals who do that work.  Comparisons have been made, rightly, to the writings of Studs Terkel.

The American Spirit: Who We Are and What We Stand For  by David McCullough

This latest offering from renowned historian David McCullough is a collection of speeches he has given over the past quarter century.   McCullough, winner of the Presidential Medal of Freedom as well as numerous other awards, has spoken before Congress, universities, historical societies, and the White House.  In this collection, he reminds us of the core values and principles which are particularly American with themes such as “What’s Essential is Invisible,” “History, Lost and Found,” ” The Love of Learning” and “The Summons to Serve.”

Undefeated: Jim Thorpe and the Carlisle Indian School Football Team  by Steve Sheinkin

What could be more American than football?  Yet, the early days of the game were a far cry from the professional endeavor it is today.  This latest book by young adult historian Sheinkin traces it back to the start, when burly college men punched each other on the field and the aim was to pile on as many bodies as possible regardless of broken bones.  Then the legendary combination that would change the whole game came together at the Carlisle Indian School: the visionary coach Pop Warner and the invincible athlete Jim Thorpe.  This is a great book for fans and non-fans alike and, as so often is the case in history, there’s so much more to the story.  Sheinkin also tells of the deplorable treatment of the Indian children torn from their families and forced into a world that was completely foreign to them.  This attitude and behavior was reflected in the treatment of the Carlisle football team (and its star player) even as they were transforming the sport.  A well balanced look at a shameful part of our past which still has repercussions today.

A Patriot’s Handbook : Songs, Poems, Stories, and Speeches Celebrating the Land We Love  selected and introduced by Caroline Kennedy

The more than 200 selections, spanning centuries, presented in this anthology were chosen by Kennedy herself and include her personal commentaries.   This hefty volume includes excerpts of Supreme Court decisions, the Gettysburg Address, Woody Guthrie’s songs, Dr. King’s “I Have a Dream” speech, Walt Whitman poetry, presidential inaugural addresses, and the complete texts of both the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution.  You’ll also find works by Alice Walker and Susan B. Anthony, Frederick Douglass and H.L. Mencken.  As Kennedy says in her introduction “I realized that I want my own children to know more about the ideals upon which this country was founded and the sacrifices that have been made to pass them on to us. This book is intended to help families explore the foundations of our freedom and to celebrate our heritage.”