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News from the front-NEFLIN Bookmobile Interest Group

NEFLIN, the library consortium for northeastern Florida, has an ongoing group that meets two to three times a year to discuss bookmobiles. The meeting on September 29th took place at the Bradford County Public Library in Starke, FL. Attendees included: one bookmobile worker from the New River Library Cooperative, six bookmobile workers from the Alachua County Public Library System and one USF SLIS graduate assistant. The New River librarian who oversees the service joined the meeting in the last hour to glean accomplishments and help set up the next session.

Who forgot the refreshments?

Attendees of the meeting. Who forgot the refreshments?

Continuing dire news for library patrons included the absence at this meeting of library bookmobile workers from Jacksonville and Clay County. These counties have discontinued their bookmobile service as cost-cutting stratagems.

This is sorry news, indeed, as it is likely to have the greatest impact on those with the fewest alternatives for access. Bookmobile service outputs that might not be readily apparent include:

  • Service to the incarcerated, juvenile facilities and adult day care centers
  • Service to rural patrons without access to transportation
  • Service to newspaper and magazine readers who might not otherwise be able to afford access
Yes, it was originally a horse van

Yes, it was originally a horse van

It might be surprising to learn the Alachua group reports each vehicle serving more patrons per year than many of their branch buildings. County commissioners might be slower to axe the service in the face of hard data clearly supporting this observation in other regions as well.

Web site: http://www.aclib.us/locations/bookmobiles

Alachua's bookmobile schedule and map of stops

Alachua's bookmobile schedule and map of stops

The camaraderie and esprit de corps of this group points to people who find great enjoyment and gratification in their work. Most of them have been driving and staffing the bookmobile for decades. They report an exceptional personal connection with their patrons that exemplifies the ideal of community. It can also be a source of rich anecdotal insight.

One worker pointed to the library card issued from the bookmobile. This system offers a card with a picture of the bookmobile on one side. The background for this picture is blue with wispy white suggesting clouds. The worker reported a young patron asking how the bookmobile got onto the card? When she was told it was a picture, the young patron continued, “But how did you get it up there?”

The personal connection goes as far as invitations to family events including weddings and funerals. The same worker from the previous anecdote reported attending a viewing at a funeral home for a patron. She attended with her long time bookmobile partner. During the gathering, a child approached them and respectfully whispered, “Is the bookmobile out in the parking lot?”

These workers clearly employ cost-saving strategies for providing materials and giveaways to patrons. For example, they gather free coloring books from Publix and the U.S. Post Office to give away to patrons who might enjoy them. So it’s particularly troubling to imagine many of these expensive vehicles sitting idle around Florida while greater and greater numbers of library patrons are forced to go without service in their communities because of it.



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