County rolls out mobile library to serve more
Vehicle is equipped with free WiFi, books, workstations
With four branches across the county, the Charles County Public Library system is accessible to many citizens — but some, particularly in the northern and central regions, still struggle to access library resources.
In 2015, Janet Salazar, the library system’s executive director, County Commissioners’ Vice President Amanda Stewart (D) and Library Board of Trustees President Claudia Bellony-Atanga came up with the idea to expand the library in a mobile capacity.
“It’s a mobile library,” Bellony-Atanga said, “not a book-mobile.”
There is a distinct difference between the two, she said, and a difference in the services each brings to the county. A book-mobile travels around with different reading materials that citizens are free to browse, she said, but a mobile library is technology-oriented with access to online materials as well as books.
The mobile library has much more to offer, Bellony-Atanga said. Housed in a 26-foot long truck, the mobile library is loaded with capacity for 2,000 books, two public workstations including computers as well access to free WiFi. Citizens will also be able to register for a library card.
The mobile library will be making visits to county schools and communities, planned to be on the road for 20 days each month. The library will also offer home delivery services for residents upon request.
This library will feature more than just books, Salazar said.
“It’s the hub of our community. We’ve asked our community many questions about our services and we’ve found out that while many are at our physical branches, many do not have access to our resources,” she said.
Salazar said the library system will improve thanks to the new addition of a mobile library. The community has been enthusiastic about the project, she said. With this, they will be able to take advantage of “all the library has to offer,” Salazar said.
The support for this project shows how important libraries still are in communities, the director noted. Not only as places for education, she said, but as community hubs.
Stewart, who has long championed the mobile library in her role as a commissioner, said one of her first meetings with the library’s board of trustees was focused on “bringing back the book-mobile.”
“I’m so excited,” Stewart said. “It’s easy to say I’m going to do A, B and C. But when you stand tall and see your project actually happen, it’s exciting.”
The project received support from the board of commissioners, Stewart said, and was turned into a priority for the fiscal year in 2017. Now, she said, all residents will be able to take advantage of the mobile library’s custom systems.
Charles County Delegate Edith Patterson (D-Charles) said this is the first semblance of a traveling library moving around the county since 1987. Since then, she said, “the county has changed a lot.”
The county commissioners have “stepped forward,” Patterson said, to serve communities that have been under-recognized in the past. Many still struggle to access library branches, she said, and this puts a stop to that.
At the end of the day, Bellony-Atanga said, education is the top priority. A community without education “won’t go far,” she said. Bettering the quality of life in the county comes along with education, and education comes along with the mobile library.
“We’re making great strides in Charles County,” she said. “We’ve experienced a lot of growth, but we’re not done yet. Education and literacy is the ticket out of poverty and is the ticket to have options in life.”
Janet Salazar, the executive director of Charles County’s Public Library system, unveiling the new mobile library to the audience on Tuesday afternoon in front of the Charles County Administration Building.
The Charles County Board of Commissioners cut the ribbon to symbolize the opening of the new Charles County Mobile Library in front of the County Administration Building.
County Commissioners’ Vice President Amanda Stewart speaks on the benefits of a mobile library coming to Charles County before the unveiling of the mobile library in from of the County Administration building on Tuesday.