By Brooklyn Draisey
The Iowa City Public Library Bookmobile rolled into town on April 10, 2017, and it has extended all the wonders of the library to far-reaching parts of the community ever since.
April 11 is National Bookmobile Day, and the bookmobile celebrated it and its birthday all week with treats and goodies for visitors.
Library community and access services director Kara Logsden said the staff came up with the idea for a Bookmobile after looking for inexpensive ways to reach parts of Iowa City that can’t easily make it to the library.
The purpose of the library is changing, from what it has for people to what it can do for people, Logsden said, and a Bookmobile was an inexpensive, interesting way of engaging with community members of all ages in all parts of town.
“There’s not a day that goes by when I’m working on the Bookmobile that someone doesn’t come up and say thank you for doing this,” Bookmobile assistant Shawna Riggins said.
When the staff started driving the Bookmobile around town, library assistant Stacey McKim said, the bookmobile faced its first, and thankfully only so far, speed bump. They were still getting used to driving the large vehicle and damaged some windows.
“That’s pretty amazing in a year to not have more accidents, because this is quite a large vehicle,” McKim said.
After that, it’s been smooth sailing. Since its full service began in June 2017, the Bookmobile has driven more than 6,000 miles, greeted 12,227 visitors, and checked out over 20,000 items. It can hold up to 2,500 items, Logsden said, and carries books, movies, and other media for all ages. The librarians on board can also listen when patrons ask for certain genres or items and bring them next time they stop by.
“You see it every day, whether it’s a youngster or an older adult, we are making a difference every day, and it’s pretty amazing,” Logsden said.
Iowa City isn’t the only community seeing the necessity for a more mobile library; communities all over the country are using bookmobiles to bring the books to the people. The Association of Bookmobile and Outreach services, which the Iowa City Public Library is a part of, has 549 libraries listed with bookmobiles.
Riggins said the library is open to trying new programs with the Bookmobile. The staff has spent the past year finding out which stops are more popular and which ones didn’t see much traffic, and the members are thinking of different ways to reach the maximum number of community members in an efficient way.
Giving people opportunities they wouldn’t have had otherwise, Logsden and Riggins said, is what they love the most, including bringing books to the elderly or to those who don’t have easy access to library tools.
The Bookmobile makes a stop in Breckenridge Estates, a mobile home community, and Logsden said a teacher from the local elementary school comes by every week to get books for the kids. Many of the children don’t get to participate in opportunities such as summer reading programs, but with the Bookmobile, they could have that opportunity.
“I think there are so many things that we take for granted, like my kids would never think twice about a summer reading program, for these kids … suddenly the world has opened up for them,” Logsden said.