Library fundraises for new bookmobile
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dmcbride@ cecilwhig. com
— You may think the Cecilton Branch Library is small, but it’s not the smallest branch of the Cecil County Public Library.
The smallest branch holds a couple thousand books, has no cafe or computer station, and in its first form didn’t even have heating. But, hey, it’s mobile and it serves approximately 2,500 children, students and families each month.
It’s the bookmobile. The current bookmobile travels to all Cecil County Public Schools and Head Start programs, in addition to lower socio- economic and geographically disadvantaged neighborhoods. While it may not be open regular hours Monday through Saturday, the bookmobile averages 50 visits a month.
And, like any other piece of equipment in the library, it’s in need of updating from time to time.
When Arne Anderson started driving the book- mobile about 10 years ago, it was “brand new,” he recalled. Today, the engine is still good, but the vehicle has had other issues, he said. He has also noticed rust and some sagging floors, although he noted neither are problems that would be dangerous for patrons who visit.
“It doesn’t handle quite as nicely,” he said, adding the vehicle is “sluggish” and runs louder now than it once did.
And that’s sort of important when you’re driving a library through winding county roads.
“The thing about a bookmobile that people don’t realize is that when you have a bookmobile, the books move. When you hit the brakes, every book on the bookmobile lurches forward. You have to be aware of that. The stopping time isn’t as great,” he said.
For four to six hours a day, Anderson is driving around in the library’s custom- made bookmobile. It started as a literacy program, so that means there are no librar y cards, due dates or fines. The bookmobile serves those without access to transportation. The newest bookmobile – the county’s first went into service in 1947 with 800 books – went on the road in 2005. In 2003, a county resident remembered the library in her will, and that gift helped secure funding for a new bookmobile.
Recently, the bookmobile experienced a number of mechanical issues that resulted in extended service disruptions. At 12- years- old, the vehicle is rather old for a county vehicle, according to library officials. In general, county vehicles last about 10 years.
The librar y hopes to gain funding for a new bookmobile through two avenues – through the county’s fiscal year 2017 budget and through fundraising by the Friends of the Library. The library also plans to use money won through the Institute of Museum and Library Sciences National Medal toward the cost, a $ 5,000 cash prize.
The Friends, a nonprofit group that advocates for the library, hope to raise $ 30,000 to contribute to the purchase of a new vehicle. This past month, the group received its largest single donation ever of $ 5,000 from the Veterans of Foreign Wars Post No. 6027 in North East.
The Friends hope to fundraise through ways big and small, and that fundraising is heating up as National Library Week is this April. Those who dine at Chili’s in Elkton on April 13 ( aka National Bookmobile Day) can help out through the purchase of a meal. The Friends have organized that anyone who mentions the bookmobile will have 10 percent of their bill donated back to the bookmobile fundraiser.
In fundraising for the new bookmobile, members of the Friends have talked with community members and learned about the bookmobile’s reputation.
“Oh, I remember the bookmobile,” is a phrase Friends President Amanda Butler said she’s heard a couple times while out talking about the cause. The Friends are looking for support in the form of donations from businesses and individuals, as well as new members. Information on giving can be found at the library, on the library’s website, http:// www. cecil. ebranch. info, and through the Friends’ Facebook page.
The group hopes to have a new bookmobile by the fall, Butler said.
While fundraising for the bookmobile, the Friends have not forgotten about summer reading, Butler said. Each year, the Friends provide financial support for that program, and she said the library has already received funding for the coming program.
The bookmobile isn’t just a librar y on wheels, it’s a community space with its own personality. The 1952 version was nicknamed “Big Bertha.” When the upgrade arrived in 1974 ( fully carpeted and with air conditioning), a contest was held and it was christened “Gulliver.”
The bookmobile has even been featured in the county’s Christmas parade in North East. It’s such a favorite that Tracy Alexander, who works in the Perryville and Port Deposit branches, was inspired to create a mini version one year with Barbara Jannaman from the North East Branch Library in 2013.
In an afternoon, the two used a wagon, cardboard box, white bulletin board paper and construction paper to design their minimobile. It was just big enough for Alexander’s daughter, Maggie, to ride inside.
The reception from the public was just what she expected, Alexander said.
“On our parade route we would often travel by groups of people that would shout things like, ‘ We love the library!’” Alexander recalled. She said many people see the bookmobile as a “lifeline” and are excited to see “Mr. Arne” visit.
Now that the weather is getting warmer, Anderson is a little busier with his bookmobile rounds. Over the past two summers, librarians have taken the summer reading program to more than 1,000 children and teens that likely would not have otherwise participated, according to numbers from the library.
On average, Anderson has at least 2,000 books on the vehicle. As the bookmobile has gotten older and harder to drive, he’s brought the number down to lower the vehicle’s weight. He said it hasn’t caused much of an issue for patrons, who seem to respond better when materials are on display and there’s room to sort through them.
Because it is a speciality vehicle, Anderson said, some parts come from Italy or Canada. During one recent problem, the bookmobile was out of commission for a month waiting for parts.
However, Anderson said that the bookmobile still receives the same warm reception. He said he drives it almost ever y day, often to underserved communities like Lakeside, North Bay and Windsor Village. He also frequently works with Cecil County Public Schools. Recently, he traveled to the Hollingsworth Manor neighborhood with teachers from Holly Hall Elementary School.
The bookmobile brings not just books, but also DVDs and information about library programming, as well as community reminders about job searches and when it is time to enroll children in school, Anderson said.
“When you have a bookmobile going around the community, you’re not just bring the educational experience, but you’re drawing them into the community,” Anderson said.
Arne Anderson, who operates the bookmobile, greets library patrons at his Windsor Village stop. The library is trying to raise funds to replace the aging bookmobile.
The 1974 bookmobile was fully carpeted and named “Gulliver” for its travels around the county. The library replaced “Gulliver” in 2003 and is now looking to make another update.