Among my greatest childhood joys was our Bookmobile ritual. We would load up our returning books, walk the two blocks to the fire station where the lumbering Bookmobile would park, and enter an unknown world right in our neighborhood. We'd deposit the books we'd already read and search out new, exciting titles to take home with us, and for the next two weeks we'd immerse ourselves in the people, animals, magic tricks, science facts, adventure, and wonder through the pages of our new library books.
I suspect that is why I was so excited to discover Sno-Isle's Bookmobile and Library on Wheels.
|This is the van with shelves, designed to get people to the books|
|This is the van designed with carts, to get the books to the people|
I stopped by the Bookmobile while it was parked at Lakewood High School on a recent Wednesday afternoon. Several folks came to return books and hunt for new ones. Since many of the visitors are regulars the staff knows their taste and can suggestf items they might enjoy. The reading preferences of the regulars also influences what items the staff put onto the Library on Wheels.
|"Ah, a new title by a favorite author!"|
|Elizabeth and Pam, happy to help you|
Because the Bookmobile is difficult for some folks to navigate, a second type of Library on Wheels exists. Instead of stationary shelves in the van, all the materials are placed on carts which can be wheeled into nursing homes, care centers, and other types of facilities. Additionally, Sno-Isle delivers boxes of items to folks who are homebound. A similar service exists for preschools.
All of these materials are personally selected for the individuals or facilities who receive them. If someone you know lives within the Sno-Isle Library system and cannot get to a library because of age or a long-term disability, you can apply for this service.
This summer the Bookmobile has made stops twice a month at two elementary schools that serve free lunch to kids in the neighborhood. I visited one of the stops where I met Sno-Isle staff members, Brian and Candyce. While Brian invited kids in to browse the books or return items they'd picked up on an earlier visit, Candyce hosted a table where the children could create a spin art project. Among the kids who got to use the Bookmobile this summer I suspect that some will grow up to be avid fans of the library.
|Books returned to the Bookmobile stop|
|The kids loved doing an art project with the spinner|
Every outreach staff member that I have met loves what they do. Though they take their job seriously, it is clear that they also find great joy in their work. Traveling to the small, outlying areas they get to know the locals as they become part of the hub of the community. In addition, the job comes with unexpected perks, such as discovering the best hamburger joint or ice cream stand in town!
Brian and Candyce, whom I met at the summer lunch stop, told me how they got interested in studying library science. When Brian was sixteen he got a job working as a page in a public library in Florida. Over the years he held different library jobs but never considered a career as a librarian. He wanted to be a doctor. In his thirties, while he was awaiting his entrance exam into medical school, he thought, "I wake up every morning excited to go to work. I love what I do. Why would I want to go to med school when I could be a librarian?" He decided to apply to one school only, the University of Washington's School of Information, and if he didn't get in he would continue with his plan of med school. Not only did he get accepted at UW, he also got a job at Sno-Isle. So he packed up his family and moved to the Northwest from his native Florida.
|Brian and Candyce|
Candyce's story is similar. On track to complete a degree in neuropsychology, she was working at a large bookstore. When her supervisors asked her to take over the children's section as manager she found her niche—kids and books. She, too, left one career track for another. Clearly both these young people love what they do.
My final stop on the Library on Wheels routes was to a senior community where the van brings books, DVD, CDs and other material personally chosen for the residents, along with their carts of items that will likely interest the folks. As they entered the building and throughout the moments of set-up, one of the women who had been waiting for them could not contain her excitement. "Do you have my 'happy books'?" she asked several times. I asked what she meant by "happy books." "The news is very negative and after I watch the news I can't get to sleep. So I read 'happy books' before I go to bed."
|Customers collecting the books that they had ordered or the librarians had selected|
and browsing the carts for other treasures
When the Library on Wheels stop was over, she was a happy customer as she smiled for the camera with her big stack of "happy books", chosen specially for her by her caring librarians.
|Library customer with her "happy books"|
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You can find earlier stories in this series here: Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3. And I'm including a video I think you'll enjoy about the Library on Wheels. I also encourage you to look at the Sno-Isle webpage to get more information about the Outreach program of the library, especially if you might have someone in your life who is homebound or would otherwise benefit from the outstanding service available through the library.