Li­brary on wheels rolls through area

The Phoenix - - FRONT PAGE - By M. English

On a typ­i­cal day, Greater Ply­mouth Com­mu­nity Cen­ter’s com­mu­nity rooms, gyms and pool are full of adults and kids. But when the Mont­gomery County-Norristown Pub­lic Li­brary book­mo­bile shows up — as it’s sched­uled to this week — the ac­tion ex­pands to the GPCC park­ing lot.

Not fa­mil­iar with MCNPL’s trav­el­ing books?

GPCC is only one of dozens of stops the ser­vice makes in a given year. In fact, Book­mo­bile and Out­reach Ser­vices head Thomas Fluharty says MCNPL is “the pub­lic li­brary that op­er­ates the most book­mo­biles in Penn­syl­va­nia.” That trans­lates to reg­u­larly sched­uled vis­its by four book­mo­biles, as well as the li­brary’s Books by Mail pro­gram for home­bound county res­i­dents.

“Two book­mo­biles pro­vide mo­bile branch li­brary ser­vices open to the gen­eral pub­lic at 25 ro­tat­ing stops in 13 mu­nic­i­pal­i­ties lo­cated within the di­rect ser­vice area of MC-NPL,” Fluharty con­tin­ues. “Two … pro­vide spe­cial­ized li­brary out­reach ser­vices to tar­geted pop­u­la­tions through­out Mont­gomery County.”

Among the lat­ter, the older adults served by MCNPL’s Words on Wheels pro­gram. The WOW book­mo­bile makes sched­uled vis­its to re­tire­ment com­mu­ni­ties and as­sisted liv­ing fa­cil­i­ties through­out the county and spe­cial­izes in large print and au­dio books and DVDs — typ­i­cally, some 2,000 in all. Pa­trons may re­serve items in ad­vance, by phone or on­line.

At the other end of the age spec­trum, MC-NPL’s Books-Go-Round book­mo­bile is “a first li­brary ex­pe­ri­ence and early emer­gent lit­er­acy out­reach pro­gram … with a strong fo­cus on serv­ing chil­dren from low-in­come fam­i­lies.” The pro­gram be­gan in 1992 with a grant from the Wil­liam Penn Foun­da­tion of Philadel­phia and, ac­cord­ing to Fluharty, “is par­tially sus­tained an­nu­ally by funds from the County Co­or­di­na­tion Aid block grant from the Penn­syl­va­nia De­part­ment of Ed­u­ca­tion, Of­fice of Com­mon­wealth Li­braries, Bureau of Li­brary De­vel­op­ment.”

“Cur­rently, the Books-Go-Round pro­gram is de­signed to ser­vice 3-, 4- and 5-yearold chil­dren at­tend­ing Head Start, PA Pre-K Counts and other preschool pro­grams in Mont­gomery County,” he ex­plains. “First ser­vice pri­or­ity is given to Head Start, PA Pre-K Counts and other Ti­tle 1 qual­i­fy­ing pro­grams. Non-qual­i­fy­ing preschool and day­care fa­cil­i­ties are served … as time and ge­og­ra­phy lim­its per­mit.”

At the mo­ment, BGR is based in a 2005 GMC C5500 truck, con­verted to a 27foot, kid-friendly gath­er­ing place by OBS Spe­cialty Ve­hi­cles in Can­ton, Ohio. Its col­or­ful in­te­rior houses some 2,500 books and re­lated items and can ac­com­mo­date up to 18 preschool­ers — and their teach­ers — on car­peted built-in benches.

“Nor­mally, we al­lo­cate 30 min­utes to each class­room per visit,” Fluharty says. “Pro­gram­ming al­ways in­cludes a [MC-NPL] staff-led, read-aloud, themed sto­ry­time [and] … of­ten in­cludes in­ter­ac­tive ac­tiv­i­ties such as pup­petry, rhymes, role play, mu­sic and move­ment that com­ple­ment the theme.”

At the end of each ses­sion, stu­dents choose and check out books.

“The se­lected books stay on site in the chil­dren’s class­rooms un­til the next sched­uled BGR visit,” Fluharty says. “The books are in­tended to help fa­cil­i­tate both teacher-led read-aloud pro­gram­ming and in­di­vid­ual self-di­rected read­ing.

“The BGR staff also pro­vides ac­cess for class­room teach­ers to cur­ricu­lum sup­port ma­te­ri­als that are avail­able via the 35 pub­lic li­braries and four book­mo­biles in the Mont­gomery County Li­brary Dis­trict. Teach­ers may re­quest and, then, check out pro­fes­sional de­vel­op­ment and class­room sup­ple­men­tal ma­te­ri­als.”

The li­brary’s BGR pro­gram pro­vided ser­vice to some 120 class­rooms a month and gen­er­ated BGR book­mo­bile vis­its by ap­prox­i­mately 17,000 chil­dren and teach­ers dur­ing the 2017-18 school year.

“We are en­ter­ing into our third school year of part­ner­ship with the Mont­gomery County In­ter­me­di­ate Unit, [and] we con­tinue to ser­vice 100 per­cent of the Head Start and PA Pre-K Counts class­rooms ad­min­is­tered by MCIU,” Fluharty says.

Although book­mo­bile ser­vice here and else­where has been af­fected by fund­ing ups and downs over the years, the con­cept has ex­isted in this coun­try since at least the early 20th cen­tury when mule and horse­drawn “book wagons” car­ried read­ing ma­te­rial to cer­tain ru­ral ar­eas. From the mid-1930s to the mid-1940s, the Works Progress Ad­min­is­tra­tion’s “pack­horse li­brar­i­ans” de­liv­ered books in and around Ap­palachia, and unique vari­a­tions on the theme pro­vide books to peo­ple in re­mote spots around the world.

For ex­am­ple, Luis So­ri­ano’s much-lauded Bi­b­lioburro in ru­ral Colom­bia re­port­edly in­spired Zim­babwe’s don­key-pow­ered book de­liv­er­ies. Else­where in Africa, camels carry books to read­ers in Kenya and Uganda, while ele­phants do the job in Thai­land and Mon­go­lia. Even man-pow­ered rick­shaws serve as mo­bile li­braries in In­dia. From fall to early spring, a ship called Epos dou­bles as a mo­bile li­brary along the west­ern coast of Nor­way.

In ad­di­tion to tra­di­tional books, MC-NPL book­mo­bile pa­trons of all ages have ac­cess to au­dio and elec­tronic books, mag­a­zines, DVDs, CDs and on­line re­sources such as Mango Lan­guages, Cyprus Re­sume, Tum­ble-Books and Zinio Mag­a­zines.

Ad­di­tional in­for­ma­tion about ser­vices and sched­ules is avail­able at 610-2785100 or mnl.mclinc.org.

SUB­MIT­TED PHOTO — MONT­GOMERY COUNTY-NORRISTOWN PUB­LIC LI­BRARY

The new­est ad­di­tion to the Mont­gomery County-Norristown Pub­lic Li­brary Book­mo­bile fleet pro­vides li­brary ac­cess to thou­sands of chil­dren across the county.

SUB­MIT­TED PHOTO — MONT­GOMERY COUNTY-NORRISTOWN PUB­LIC LI­BRARY

The new­est ad­di­tion to the Mont­gomery Coun­tyNor­ris­town Pub­lic Li­brary Book­mo­bile fleet pro­vides li­brary ac­cess to thou­sands of chil­dren across the county.

SUB­MIT­TED PHOTO — MONT­GOMERY COUNTY-NORRISTOWN PUB­LIC LI­BRARY

The new­est ad­di­tion to the Mont­gomery Coun­tyNor­ris­town Pub­lic Li­brary Book­mo­bile fleet pro­vides li­brary ac­cess to thou­sands of chil­dren across the county.

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