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.