Bookmobiles: Bringing the library to your doorstep

By

Susan Lee

The American Library Association’s [ALA] Office for Literacy and Outreach Services [OLOS], the Association of Bookmobile and Outreach Services [ABOS], and the Association for Rural & Small Libraries [ARSL] urge us to celebrate our country’s bookmobiles and the staff running them every year on April 17th with National Bookmobile Day. The first National Bookmobile Day was in 2010, at a time when the number of library bookmobiles still in business are dwindling for a variety of reasons. The day was intended to “recognize and celebrate (sic) the role of bookmobiles and direct delivery outreach services in fulfilling the mission of libraries (ALA Office, 2013).” It also is meant as an encouragement for patrons to show to their support for their local libraries (ALA Office, 2013).

Bookmobiles have been an “integral and vital part of library service in the United States for over 100 years, bookmobiles have delivered information, technology, and resources for lifelong learning to Americans of all walks of life (ALA Office, 2013, p.1).” In 1931 S.R. Ranganathan, known as “The Father of Library Science,” called the concept of a mobile library an ideal method of improving rural education (ALA Office, 2013, p.1). It was an area often neglected even after the mass-produced book thrived in the nineteenth century, and national libraries throughout Europe and America “suddenly bloomed with books by the hundreds of thousands (Battles, 2003, p. 128).” Yet millions of people were struggled in poverty, which ultimately led to a sweeping public library movement in Britain after years of economic struggles and class conflict (Battles, 2003, p. 134-5). The nation’s elite recognized the need for progress, and bringing a “cultural and intellectual energy [that] (sic) was lacking in the lives of commoners (Battles, 2003, p.135).” While the term commoners no longer apply to the equation, the English sentiment remains the same. Libraries exist to offer access to books carefully chosen by librarians, books preserved for present and future use. At the turn of the 19th to 20th century in America, home libraries began to pop up in the rustic countryside like the farmhouses of Wisconsin – typically about “twenty books in a little cupboard (Battles, 2003, p.197).” This gave the “aura of the library,” a set of books shelved together and sent to readers in rural areas (Battles, 2003, p.197). These home libraries were considered the early version of what would later become the bookmobile, horse-drawn buggies led by a librarian.

In a more urban setting, home libraries also existed but in another form; a librarian or library volunteer would visit neighborhoods, typically those with many immigrant children, with book collections and lend the books to trustworthy children. The library or library volunteer would return a week or two later to collect books back and offer different or new materials for them to borrow. It was a “combination of settlement-house outreach and library science” designed to “bring untutored masses into the circle of readers,” and make them more valuable to society (Battles, 2003, p.197). It is the same goal for most public library systems.

Public libraries since the beginning have traditionally offered outreach and extension services throughout their branch locations and via their bookmobile services. Library outreach programs are important for not only reaching the community and proving the worthiness of library services but “respond[ing] (sic) to its potential patrons.” Libraries can do this by “bringing services out to where they are needed” via outreach (Trotta, 1993, p.2).

Bookmobile perform the same types of services offered by physical libraries – reference services, readers’ advisory, Storytime and activities, as well as reading materials and DVDs (ALA Office, 2013). In his article for the Library Journal entitled “Delivering the Library,” Bob Warburton admits that the image of the typical bookmobile waxes nostalgia for most (2013). Bookmobile service dates back to 1850s England, when horse-drawn carriages delivered books to citizens (Amundsen, 2012). But Warburton argues that bookmobiles have been in a state of transformation much like library systems they operate under, needing to focus on the future to guarantee their continued existence (2013).

Many bookmobiles keep current in serving their communities by adding technology as well, adaptive technology for people with disabilities, computers with Internet access, educational software, e -readers, portable media players, subscription databases, and even video game systems (ALA Office, 2013). Adding modern conveniences to the traditional bookmobile service isn’t the only fundamental change undergone to become more appealing to the public. King County Library System [KCLS] in Washington runs six Library2Go! bookmobiles that regularly visit daycare centers, community centers and senior centers. One of their bookmobiles is equipped with a Digital Discovery Zone featuring tools for creating computer graphics, games, and animations to groups of all ages. These Techmobiles come complete with digital technology such as iPads and e-readers, which are increasingly popular among libraries and patrons. Another trend can be noted in bookmobiles – one that would be appreciated by the environmentalists (Warburton, 2013).

To become eco-friendly and to trim fuel costs, many bookmobiles have ‘gone green.’ Skylights and solar panels are common features in many of today’s bookmobiles. Operating 5 days a week, the San Francisco Public Library [SFPL] Green Bookmobile features juvenile, teen, and adult materials as expected. But it also runs on “20 percent biodiesel and is specially equipped with 4 solar panels, Fantastic Vents for green AC, skylights for natural light, sustainably forested wood, recycled content in carpet, and a hybrid generator.” To help cover costs, the SFPL has partnered with Exploratorium, SFMOMA, and California Academy of Sciences [Green Bookmobile]. The SFPL also operates a bookmobile for the Treasure Island Community, the Early Literacy Mobile library for children under 5 years old and their caregivers, and a wheelchair-accessible Library on Wheels bookmobile for seniors (San Francisco Public Library, n.d).

In 2008, there were just over 930 bookmobiles in operation across the United States, up from 825 bookmobiles in 2005. A 2010 American Library Association survey revealed that the state with the most library bookmobiles in service was Kentucky, with 98. California was trailing in second place with 69 library bookmobiles (ALA Office, 2013). Most of the bookmobiles in existence have a rich history.

The aforementioned SFPL bookmobile began in 1944, with reading material from SFPL but staffed by the American Women’s Voluntary Services during World War II. The Traveling Branch, the first official SFPL bookmobile, started in 1957 to serve Hunter’s Point. The Daly City Earthquake that same year damaged many of the library branch buildings. The Traveling Branch increased library service in response. In 1971, the SFPL added a second bookmobile called The Whole World Media Center, containing both book and film collections. It was later renamed Library on Wheels and proving library service to seniors. It would stop running in 1991.

Fortunately, the SFPL Friends of the Library was able to fundraiser over $120,000 to purchase a new bookmobile for the Library on Wheels program, its longest running program. In 1995, the Children’s Bookmobile began providing library services to children with funding from the SF Department of Children, Youth, and their Families. Its service focused on lower income families and at-risk children in group care, providing them with early literacy support for children ages 0 to 5 years old. The librarian on board is trained to provide “expert literacy advice, support, and storytimes.” The Children’s Bookmobile was renamed in 2011 as the Early Literacy Mobile under their Mobile Outreach Services [MOS], which would consolidate their existing bookmobile programs to pool their resources and staff. The SFPL recently added the Youth Mobile Pilot to provide library service to elementary, middle and high school students who require academic support with a collection “specifically tailored to pique the reading and information interests of youth.” In continuing their tradition of excellence in providing quality mobile service to distinct populations, the SFPL is preparing to launch the TechMobile – a mobile digital computer lab with free Wi-Fi access and on-board computers for public use (San Francisco Public Library, n.d).

While innovation is important in many areas, Colleen Hall of the St. Louis County Library, the largest in the state of Illinois with a 20-branch network, rejects the notion of a “one-size-fits-all [program].” Rather, Hall encourages libraries to look closely at what “their individual service areas need” before spending thousands of dollars on a tricked-out bus. Their county library system operates seven mobile library units: four old-school models, two modified panel vans, and one unit tailored for preschools (Warburton, 2013).

Although the SFPL mobile library program was one of the earliest known and popular bookmobiles, the first known bookmobile in existence in the United States was started years earlier in 1905 by librarian Mary Lemist Titcomb for the Washington County Free Library of Maryland. Ms. Titcomb recognized the “need to get books in homes throughout the county” (a predominantly rural area), beyond Hagerstown, where the library was physically located. Boxes of books were sent to dozens of general stores or post offices throughout the area for distribution. Ms. Titcomb believed the Library Wagon was important as “the outward and visible signs of the service for which the Library stood,” and the cost of the bookmobile program was well worth it to benefit of their community (Western Maryland Regional Library, n.d).

The first official Library Wagon was commissioned to be “finished with shelves on the outside and a place for storage of cases in the center and [sic] resembled somewhat a cross between a grocer’s delivery wagon and the tin peddler’s cart.” It was pulled by two horses, driven by Mr. Joshua Thomas, a janitor who also dispensed the books. Highlighting the bookmobile’s importance, Ms. Titcomb wrote “no better method has ever been devised for reaching the dweller in the country” (Western Maryland Regional Library, n.d). She recognized that the library should be responsible for helping people to become literate (Trotta, 1993). She also wrote “the book goes to the man, not waiting for the man to come to the book (Western Maryland Regional Library, n.d).” Five years later, the Library Wagon was destroyed in an accident and replaced with a motorized book wagon in 1912. A fleet of motorized book wagons was put into use, not only delivering books to men, women and children in rural areas but also retirement homes, schools, and many other county residences (Western Maryland Regional Library, n.d).

The Washington County Free Library [WCFL] Bookmobile is still in business over one hundred years later, continuing “the proud tradition of serving patrons who do not otherwise have access to library services” (Washington County Free Library, 2013). The bookmobile serves the entire community but its focus is centered on senior citizens, children and homebound individuals unable to visit the library in person. It visits visit schools, daycare centers, adults and challenged individuals, nursing homes and senior retirement communities as well as several neighborhood communities. The WCFL bookmobile collection has about 4000 items, 70% youth materials and 30% adult materials, consisting of books, magazines, DVDs and books on CD. Patrons can also request items from the branch collections or inter-library loans (Washington County Free Library, 2013).

Unfortunately, the number of bookmobiles in operation today has been dwindling, primarily due to budget issues and a decrease in use by the public. The aforementioned ABOS states that the average cost of a bookmobile is about $200,000 a year (ALA Office, 2013). ABOS is a non-profit organization comprised of libraries of all types and all sizes. Its mission is to support and encourage government officials, library administrators, trustees, and staff in the provision of quality bookmobile and outreach services to meet diverse community information and programming needs. They provide a forum for discussion of activities, programs, challenges and successes in the field of bookmobile and outreach services in libraries, contribute to the education and training of library staff working in the area of bookmobile and outreach services in libraries, promote bookmobile and outreach services as essential services for libraries, and serve as a channel of communication and instruction to improve bookmobile and outreach services (ABOS. 2013).

However, bookmobiles don’t need to be tricked-out, high tech buses, vans, or anything with actual wheels to service library patrons efficiently and effectively. Some international mobile libraries are more reminiscent of the horse-drawn buggies of olden days. In Kenya, a camel delivers collections of books on topics such as science, geography and agriculture in trunks, strapped to his sides. In places like Venezuela and Colombia, donkeys are the four-legged carriers of choice instead. In Norway, a boat named Epos serves as a floating library, delivering books to small towns since 1963 (Miklos, 2013). The Epos is highly popular, containing over 4000 books and audiobooks that are delivered to places hard to reach due to Norway’s geological landscape, dominated by mountains and wide coastlines. Their patron-base is predominant school-age children and the elderly. The library services are free and include storytime for children, puppet shows, and visits from writers. First started in the autumn of 1959, the purpose of Epos was “to expand the cultural scene” and “to enrich hamlets, located in the west coast of Norway, that don’t have their own libraries (Christiansen, 2012).”

Some may argue that unlike Norway, the United States has improved transportation and technology so much that mobile libraries are no longer as beneficial or even necessary. Yet in El Paso, Texas thousands of residents would not get Internet access, resume workshops, or books. El Paso is still a largely sprawling area with many rural pockets. Despite of having 13 El Paso Public Library [EPPL] branches, much of its 800,000 population live in over 225 square miles of high desert and cannot access any of the branches. As a substitute, the EPPL has one bookmobile and one tech-mobile in service – with two new mobile libraries in the works, one specifically designed for children. EEPL Director of Library Services Dionne L. Mack considers the bookmobile program “an extension of their brick-and-mortar library” and the “most cost-efficient way to make sure we have more flexibility to serve neighborhoods” (Warburton, 2013).

The current bookmobile in service was purchased in 1997 after extensive fundraising efforts by library employees and the community. The previous bookmobile bus would break down every month and require expensive maintenance. The bookmobile is in service six days a week, stopping at 45 locations each week including shopping centers, apartment buildings, and schools as well as special functions. It offers library materials like books, storytelling, and other normal library services (EPPL Bookmobile, 2013). The tech-mobile offers digital amenities to regions where only 34% of houses are wired for Internet access (Warburton, 2013). The tech-mobile, first introduced in 2011 to the EPPL patrons, was innovative in its concept of delivering technology access and programs to its residents. It is a 42 foot-long bus, featuring 12 computer workstations, a large TV and smart board for instruction, a printer, two wheelchair-accessible computers, and a full-time instructor on board during operating hours. The total cost was $346,399.06, which was paid for by a grant from Department of Commerce’s National Telecommunications and Information Administration Broadband Technology and Opportunities Program [BTOP]. The tech-mobile offers free computer training to patrons, helping them set up e-mail accounts, how to use the computer, write resumes, conduct web searches, and other important tasks that are often done online today (EPPL Techmobile, 2013). According to Mack, community support is vital to the continuation of the bookmobile program (Warburton, 2013).

Bookmobiles can be used to fulfill an important need in times of emergency, reassuring citizens of regular library service. In March of 1957, the Daly City Earthquake damaged many of the San Francisco Public Library system branches. The SFPL bookmobile increased its service in response (Bookmobiles/Mobile Outreach, n.d). Following Hurricane Sandy, Brooklyn Public Library’s [BPL] branches in Coney Island and Gerritsen Beach were shuttered. The BPL utilized its 29 foot-long bookmobile in these areas for the year following the storm while the branches underwent renovations. BPL Chief Librarian Richard Reyes-Gavilan says the bookmobile program allows libraries to be more nimble for such situations. Although Reyes-Gavilan admits the circulation numbers are not through the roof, the bookmobile service “helps the community remember that the library is there” and “offers a sense of caring” (Warburton, 2013).

But Reyes-Gavilan also argues that the bookmobiles must earn their keep, recognizing that there is not enough money in library budgets to keep them around for nostalgia. The BPL system is publicly-funded and separate from the New York City and Queens public library systems (About BPL, 2013). The BPL branches are housed in aging buildings that require significant repairs or renovations. One branch recently closed for three years, and the bookmobile took its place to offer its residents library service (Warburton, 2013). Today, the BPL has four bookmobiles in usage, each 29 foot-long buses, housing 6000 books each. One is a brightly painted orange bus specifically designated as the “Kidsmobile,” featuring a children’s collection, and another is the “Bibliobús,” featuring a Spanish-language collection. The bookmobiles visit neighborhoods whose branch locations are under renovations. On weekends, they travel to community events (Only at BPL, 2013).

Certainly bookmobile programs can be valuable if used efficiently and effectively, and should be included in future library planning. Children and senior citizens seem to be the primary population that bookmobiles court. Often they are the important populations to public libraries. A common thread among shuttered bookmobile programs is lack of money to keep them, and the vehicles, running. Used bookmobiles can run $20,000 to $54,000 and new bookmobiles cost $200,000 on average. There are many manufacturing companies and vendors that specifically design and sell bookmobiles, and provide bookmobile services. Meridian Specialty Vehicles of Montana and Matthews Specialty Vehicles of North Carolina work with libraries to design interior spaces for shelving, computer stations, and other desired features (Warburton, 2013). A simple web search brings up many others including Farber Specialty Vehicles of Columbus, Ohio, Moroney Bookmobiles of Massachusetts, OBS Specialty Vehicles, Inc. of Canton, Ohio, and Quality Vans and Specialty Vehicles – Bookmobile manufacturers of Tempe, Arizona.

The designs range from the classic to more fancy models. The Moroney Bookmobiles business began in 1940, and features both gas and diesel powered standard truck models. Their quality designs are simple and designed for comfort (Moroney Bookmobiles, 2013). Meridian Specialty Vehicles offers both eco-friendly and high-tech “digital” vehicles crafted from scratch and specially tailored to the library’s needs (Meridian Specialty Vehicles, 2013). Farber Specialty Vehicles boasts that they sell more than a third of all bookmobiles manufactured in North America. They offer 8 different models, from coach to super duty (Farber Specialty Vehicles, 2013). These companies are merely a few that offer bookmobile models that certain library systems would dream of obtaining, library systems with once historic and widely-used bookmobile programs that have since shut down.

California is the most populated state in the United States yet the number of bookmobiles in the larger cities is dwindling year after year. San Diego Public Library’s bookmobile program had a rich history, starting when it began on September 21st, 1948 (Breed, 1983, p.105). The first bookmobile was a 23-foot long van, purchased from the Kalamazoo Coach Co. in Michigan for $8,000. On the outside, it looked like a windowless school bus. On the inside, the eight-foot wide interior held 170 feet of shelving, a desk, lighting, as well as separate entrance and exit doors. It held enough room for twenty people to browse the collection inside. It was an instant success as it visited elementary schools and shopping malls, stopping at each location for two to three hours, judging by the crowds of excited patrons. Staffed solely by a librarian and a library clerk, the bookmobile would circulate 90 books an hour, more than the average number at branch locations (Crawford, 2009).

Library books could now be brought to new subdivisions of San Diego and small station libraries that were only open a few hours a week could be shuttered. The San Diego Public Library Bookmobile was an improvement over these stations because it carried a larger selection of materials, a librarian and a library clerk who also served as driver. The bookmobile also filled a growing need; even though the population of San Diego had nearly doubled in twenty years, no new branch libraries had been built. Instead, one larger Central Library was being planned in addition to the building of more public schools instead of branch libraries (Breed, 1983, p. 121-4).

A second bookmobile was added in 1956 at the cost of $13,500. Nicknamed ‘Goliath’ by library staff, it was 26-feet long and held 3,000 books. With both vehicles in service, the public library extended its service to 15 locations, with stops extended to 4 hours long each including after-school hours for children. Both vehicles were reliable and required little maintenance but electricity was a problem, as the bookmobiles needed to be hooked up to an external electrical source through extension cords to power lights at night. If they didn’t have access to electricity, the bookmobiles would close up shop when daylight faded (Crawford, 2009). A third mobile library was added in 1959 (Breed, 1983, 124). Together, the three bookmobiles served an area as far north as Del Mar, as far south as the Mexican border, and as far east as San Carlos. The original bookmobile had to be replaced in 1962 by a 32-foot van built by Gerstenslager of Wooster, Ohio (Crawford, 2009).

To ensure quality service, the bookmobile would be staffed by at least one professional librarian during operating hours. A restructuring of the library in 1959 threatened to end the bookmobile program but it was averted after a brief two-week shutdown (Breed, 1983). One bookmobile was temporarily shut down in 1970 but reopened 18 months later (Crawford, 2009). Budget issues occurred again in 1975, leading to one of the bookmobile being shuttered again, this time permanently (Breed, 1983, p129). A second bookmobile was shut down later that same year, leaving just one bookmobile in service, primarily due to the addition of new branch libraries and a drop in circulation numbers from the bookmobiles.

The remaining bookmobile in service was a 35-foot long bus purchased for $37,000 in 1973. When it was fully loaded with 4,000 books, it weighed 12.5 tons. The city of San Diego expected the bus to be in service for the next 15 years; it broke down in 1985. The remaining library-on-wheels was given a $25,000 mechanical overhaul and remodeling. The “new and improved” bookmobile premiered a year later at a community event in Balboa Park to the delight of both library staff and users. It was regularly trotted out at other community events, retirement communities, senior centers, social service agencies, and elementary schools. Library staff would see the same appreciative and welcoming faces every neighborhood stop; one library assistant noted that it was like “being part of a really big extended family.” Unfortunately the bookmobile was plagued by mechanical issues. Budget woes prevented a replacement being purchased. The San Diego Public Library was unable to obtain donations or gifts to aid in their cause. The cost of maintaining the bookmobile program increased while circulation numbers dropped. Library Commissioner Mike Madigan thanked the bookmobile for long and distinguished service before calling for a commissioner vote that unanimously voted to halt the once-popular service. The bookmobile program was closed for good on September 12th, 1997 (Crawford, 2009).

A look at the current state of California’s bookmobiles show a trend of the bulk of bookmobile programs being shuttered while a select handful thrive. In the Orange County Register newspaper article entitled Libraries phase out bookmobiles, Mary Jo Fisher wrote “the nation’s bookmobiles are slowly going the way of the dinosaurs… killed off by new technology and fuel prices.” She points to the Santa Ana Public Library shutting down their bookmobile after 45 years due to costs and dwindling patron use. Santa Ana Public Library Director Rob Richard was quoted as saying that “the funding needs to go elsewhere” due to changing times and people using the library differently, an inference to new technology changing the face of libraries. In 2001-2002, the bookmobile had lent out 52,800 items to less than 40,000 in 2004. At a two hour stop, only 30 items on average would be checked out. Richard notes that “it would have been cheaper for us to give the books away.”

Yet local elementary school Principal Robert Anguiano laments the loss of the bookmobile, noting the community, especially the children are going to miss it. The bookmobile supplemented the school library and encouraged the children to read. Santa Ana supervising librarian Angie Nguyen ran the bookmobile program and was also sad to see it go, noting the library hopes to maintain their remaining small van for special events to promote reading. Now the bookmobile’s former $187,000 budget would go to an after-school tutoring program and a part-time library security guard instead of other library services or outreach for a city with the largest population in Orange County (Fisher, 2006).

The other two bookmobile programs servicing Orange County are Fullerton Public Library and Anaheim Public Library. Fisher notes that while Fullerton Public Library has cut bookmobile service, the Anaheim Public Library had “expanded its route and rolled out more vehicles,” which shows a contradicting picture of one side showing that library patrons are not using bookmobiles while the other side shows bustling use, with libraries increasing services to meet demand (Fisher, 2006). A current look at the Fullerton Public Library website shows that their bookmobile is currently not in service when it once made frequent stops local elementary schools, offering story-time to 120 students, parents, and teachers (Giasone, 2007).

Anaheim Public Library is not immune to budget crisis with eight different branch locations but it supplements its finances with federal grants to help them bring bookmobiles loaded with 6,500 books to low-income neighborhoods and schools. According to Kerry Hall, principal bookmobile librarian, 120,000 items were circulated in 2005. If there’s a neighborhood visited that isn’t doing well, Hall promotes the bookmobile program, and if that doesn’t work, they find a different location (Fisher, 2006).

The Los Angeles Public Library shut down its bookmobile program in 2004 after 55 years of service, also citing budget issues and declining use. Another trend causing the demise of the bookmobile is the increased number of branch locations. It is now easier and more convenient for library users who “prefer going to a full-service library where they have a full collection of books, CDs, DVDs, access to computers, community rooms and programs for children and teens — all the things the [Los Angeles] (sic) bookmobile doesn’t have” according to Los Angeles Public Library spokesperson Peter Persic. They have added over 80 branches since 1989. Bookmobile use decreased as the number of library branches being built increased, with roughly 400 bookmobile users a day in 1999-2000, to 50 users in 2002-2003 (Tamaki, 2004). It begs the point that many bookmobiles do have the things Persic mentioned – movies and CDs, as well as access to computers and programs like story-time as noted above, yet instead of revamping their bookmobiles or upgrading their program, they sought to eliminate it.

Indeed, there are still certain areas of Los Angeles City that could use the bookmobile. Two new library branches opened in North Hollywood yet students swarmed librarian Hilary Smith as she arrived in the bookmobile at their elementary school. Students poured over Dr. Seuss books, National Geographic magazines, Spanish language books, and the latest Junie D. Jones children’s books, a rare find at their local branch. The bookmobile is specifically geared towards these children, noted Smith, children from working-class families that may not otherwise get to visit the local branches. Even though the bookmobile holds about 4,000 books compared to 30,000 to 80,000 books at a typical branch, patrons say the bookmobile makes up for it in “convenience, personal service and a safe environment.” According to school Principal Dora Pimentel-Baxter the bookmobile “enhances the school’s library at a time when literacy is being emphasized by district officials” (Tamaki, 2004).

Alicia Randolph, children’s librarian for the Inner-City bookmobile, stated that it was often difficult for working poor, immigrants, and children to visit a local branch even if it was just two or three miles away. Transportation is an issue. In East Los Angeles, another issue is safety; one young bookmobile visitor relayed that her mother wouldn’t let her walk to the local branch due to the threat of local gang violence. Bookmobile patron Rosarie Andrade was one of 18 people waiting at a bookmobile stop. She expressed her gratitude for the program, saying it was “important for the kids who live around here… if it’s not here, they’ll have more chances to be on the street doing something stupid.” Another 14 year-old visitor in line credited the bookmobile for fostering his love of reading (Tamaki, 2004).

Sacramento Public Library, Monterey Public Library, San Luis Obisco City-County Library, Fresno County Public Library, Riverside County Library, and Alameda County Library are some of the places that have continued their bookmobile programs. Although the San Diego Public Library’s bookmobile program has shut down, the San Diego County Library system, servicing Northern and Eastern San Diego including unincorporated areas, still maintains two bookmobiles. Its East County Bookmobile was initiated into service in 2009, with a dedication ceremony presided by Chairwoman of Board of Supervisors Dianne Jacob and Library Director José Aponte. Both the East County and North County bookmobiles feature colorful art on the exteriors, painted by San Diego muralist John Whalen They are two of the biggest, measuring at 35 feet-long and able to hold 7,400 items each, as well as computers for public use (County of San Diego, 2009). They are considered a lifeline to residents in spread out areas of San Diego such as Jamul and San Pasqual Indian Reservation, offering both information and entertainment (San Diego County News Center, 2012).

A major trend in successful and functioning bookmobile programs is support from city or county administration and library staff for bookmobiles and what they represent. A passionate library staff is central to a working bookmobile program. Monetary grants and community fundraisers may help cover initial costs but as Warburton writes, “outreach staff, materials, and maintenance are three of the main annual expenditures, not to mention keeping a large vehicle gassed up” (2013). Library staff, especially management, who believe in bookmobile programs and what they can offer to the community, is central as evidenced by quotes and interviews above. A successful bookmobile program needs more than just money, but also heart at the core from the staff as well as the community.

Works Cited

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