Tales from the Road

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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.

Tales from the Road

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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.

Yes, the new bookmobile is here!  We’re still going through our adjustment phase, the new bus and I.  It has that new car smell and drives like a dream.  And there’s air conditioning, even if I haven’t quite figured out where to point the vents so that I don’t blow my patrons away.  There are shelves to browse and folks can step inside and feel like they’re in a library again.  When they ask me if I love it, though, my reply has been “I’ll get there.”

You may remember that the vehicle stayed at the City Yard for two full weeks before I got to bring it ‘home.’   On the day it was delivered from Ohio, I sat in the Yard with the Farber rep while he went over all the buttons and switches on the dashboard – and it all made perfect sense.  Two and a half weeks later, when I took it out on the road for the first time,  it took me 20 minutes at my first stop to remember how to turn on the interior lights.  And it was three stops before I could get the air conditioning going.  It felt the same as when someone shows me something new on the computer.  “Click here, then drag this over, then save it and you’re done!”  It all seems reasonable at the moment, but when I try to repeat the process by myself later, somehow it doesn’t work quite as well.

The ‘check engine’ light has been on twice already and I’ve had to swing by the Yard.  One time, it was a hose that had come loose and was easily fixable.  The other time, though, was more curious.  Billy (the Wonder Mechanic) plugged in the tablet to get a reading of the problem and the machine said something about fumes escaping.  It took us forever but he finally realized that the cap for the fuel tank needs to be turned a bit beyond the click.  (I almost entitled this piece “Beyond the Click!”)  Yes, after we fill the tank and have turned the cap until it clicks, we have to continue turning just a smidge more – not even a quarter turn – so that the seal is tight.  As they say, it’s all in the details.

I have been out on the road, following my regular schedule, and everyone is very happy!  One of my patrons brought cookies to share as a celebration!  I stopped at one of the preschools and pulled up along the curb as usual.  These kids had not ever seen the old bookmobile, they only knew me in the minivan.  I heard them talking out on the playground.  “What’s that RV doing there?”  “How come that RV came to our school?”  I poked my head out to say hello and they wanted to know what I had in “that RV.”  They were thrilled to come inside to find stacks of books!

I continue to adjust shelves and rearrange materials.  It’s still white, although we did get some magnetic strips for identification.  The most often asked question has been “Aren’t you going to decorate it?” and I explain that it’s in the works.  It’s been two weeks now, so I’m beginning to feel the regular routine – switch this on, hold this button, check that toggle, don’t forget to turn this one off when I get back.  Folks from some of the branches have been by to see it; I stopped at the Friends of the Library meeting to show it off (they had been very generous in their support!)  Next week, the Library Board will visit during their regular meeting upstairs.  So we’re getting there.  And yes, I do love it!




Patience, patience


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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.

Yes, I’m practicing patience these days.  Our new Sprinter van arrived in Charlottesville on Friday, May 26, 2017.  A very nice man (whose name I’ve already forgotten because it was almost two weeks ago!) from Farber drove it from Ohio to the City Yard here in town.  After a number of missed phone calls, I met Billy (the mechanic) and the Director and the Business Manager from JMRL over at the Yard and got my first glimpse of the new vehicle.  It’s so clean and shiny!!  We were given a ‘tour’ and explanations of all the lights and buttons on the dashboard.  The wheelchair lift was demonstrated and I got to peek under the hood.  He even let me drive it around the parking lot.  So I was ready, absolutely ready to bring it back to the office and get it loaded up.  But no, the City guys still had to go to the DMV and process all the paperwork.  We need license plates and insurance and to be sure we have the invoice, so it can belong to us.  Patience, patience.

Monday was a holiday, the Yard was busy for the rest of the week – so what if the fuel pumps weren’t pumping properly! – and then we were at another weekend.  I only bugged them once, the first week.  I’ve been back over there several times already this week.  I have the owner’s manual, booklets about the radio and clock, four keys, and I still can’t bring it to the garage.  Patience, patience.

We had decided to have the wrap done locally, so the new Sprinter is very white.  Have I mentioned how clean and shiny it is ?!!?  Abby (whom the followers of this blog already know) is working on some designs and I am absolutely prepared to drive it around plain white while she’s creating the graphics.   If I can get a couple magnetic strips that say BOOKMOBILE, that will be fine.  I’m ready.  Patience, patience.