National Bookmobile Day

Today is National Bookmobile Day, a day to recognize the contributions of our nation’s bookmobiles and the dedicated professionals who make quality outreach possible in their communities. Bookmobiles provide access to resources for life-long learning for those whom the the joy of visiting a public library may be out of reach.

While East Central Regional Library officially retired its last bookmobile in May 2009, Outreach Services continue by van! Outreach Librarian Tim Olson regularly makes stops in 8 communities (Braham, Onamia, Isanti, Giese, Duquette, Jacobson, Hill City, and McGrath), carrying library materials in bins for patrons to check out. Tim logs an average of 320 miles per week to provide library service through both mounds of snow and staggering heat.

Here’s celebrating the role bookmobile service has played in East Central Regional Library history with a look back at the old bookmobiles.

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National Bookmobile Day is an opportunity for outreach fans to make their support known. Share your stories and memories of the East Central Regional Library bookmobile and outreach services!

*These items were digitized by the Minnesota Digital Library as part of the Public Library Partnership Project with the Digital Public Library of America.  View these and other historical East Central Regional Library images in Minnesota Reflections or DPLA.

National Bookmobile Day 2016

Today is National Bookmobile Day, which celebrates the role of bookmobiles and outreach services in fulfilling the mission of libraries and the dedicated library professionals who provide this valuable and essential service to their communities every day.

While East Central Regional Library retired its last bookmobile in May 2009, ECRL continues to provide outreach services to 8 sites by van. Our outreach communities are: Braham, Onamia, Isanti, Giese, Duquette, Jacobson, Hill City, and McGrath. ECRL Outreach Services provides individuals who are unable to get to one of our branches many of the same library services!

Here’s celebrating the role bookmobile service has played in ECRL history with a look back at some of our old bookmobiles.

Stanchfield School students in 1960 eagerly wait to board the East Central Regional Library Bookmobile.*
Bookmobile_East_Central_Regional_Library_Cambridge_Minnesota (1)
In 1986, the box from a previous East Central Regional Library bookmobile was mounted on a new truck frame. Because the lights and heat ran off the alternator, it did not run during the coldest months. Nevertheless, this bookmobile logged 298,000 miles during its service.*
East Central Regional Library bookmobile visiting Cloverton, in Pine County.*
East Central Regional Library’s last bookmobile. Purchased in 1996 for $103,000, it was the first new bookmobile in 20 years. It was built on a Bluebird bus chassis, held 3,500 items, had an onboard generator and a lift for accessibility, and it featured an “air ride.” *
Outreach Van
The current outreach van that delivers library materials to community centers, city and town halls, a depot, church, and pavilion in 8 ECRL communities.

ECRL recognizes the service of its many bookmobile librarians, drivers, and outreach librarians since 1959!

*These items were digitized by the Minnesota Digital Library as part of the Public Library Partnership Project with the Digital Public Library of America.  View these and other historical ECRL images in Minnesota Reflections or DPLA.



Era Comes to an End

Press Release

After 49 years, an era will come to an end when the East Central Regional Library Bookmobile makes its last run on May 21st. The decision to replace library services delivered with the current bookmobile with other more cost-effective modes of service is part of the ECRL 2007-2010 Strategic Plan.

Declining use of the bookmobile, along with rising maintenance costs and an aging vehicle precipitated the decision. The current bookmobile purchased in 1996 has traveled over 350,000 miles delivering items to patrons. The bookmobile serves those individuals that are not able to use one of the Library’s 14 branches.

Current bookmobile patrons were recently sent a survey, asking for their input on how best to serve their library needs once bookmobile service has ended. Over 60 surveys were returned. The survey indicated that 50% of those visited by the bookmobile do have access to an ECRL branch and visit them on occasion. It also showed that over 50% using the bookmobile have access to a computer and the Internet. However, barriers still exist for many of our bookmobile patrons. Transportation for many, especially the elderly, remains an issue, along with access to computers and the Internet.

Members of the ECRL’s Long Range Planning Committee met and compiled the survey results and made a recommendation to the Library Board on how to best suit the needs of bookmobile patrons once service comes to an end. The Library Board approved these recommendations at their February 9 board meeting. Among the recommendations approved by the board was the promotion of existing services such as storytime kits for licensed center or family-based daycare providers, plus Bifolkal kits, long term loan checkout and institutional cards for nursing homes and assisted living facilities serving seniors.

Possible new service options among the recommendations include Library Link sites or a mail-a-book option. A library link site is a secure locally supported physical space with a small collection of library materials that would be open very limited hours. Cities or communities must apply to be a Library Link site. For people living in remote locations and who do not have options to pick up materials at a library, other delivery options will be considered.

The decision to end bookmobile service was a difficult one to make, but ECRL is striving to meet the needs of those individuals unable to access an ECRL branch by offering a variety of new and existing services. ECRL Headquarters staff is working with communities and individuals in our 6-county service area to determine the best way to provide library service when bookmobile service ends.

Another Bookmobile Adventure

“My name is Jug, J-U-G.” I glanced apprehensively past the dashboard trinkets and girlie calendar to the burly tattooed driver.

“When they called, they asked if I could haul a Bluebird bus.” Jug was no novice. “It’s not a Bluebird—it’s The Bookmobile!”

I was struggling to find common ground for conversation as we faced a two-hour trip back to Cambridge, when Jug offered the magic segue: “The only thing that’s worse to haul than the Bookmobile is the vehicle for the State correctional facilities!”

So began my assortment of lessons on towing services, customers, double clutching, and the adventures of a hardworking business owner and former repo man. I had thought it would be just another hot summer day on the bookmobile, but I never expected to return to Cambridge in a super-sized wrecker hauling our 13-ton bus.

Just last spring, the bookmobile hobbled back to Cambridge sporting a cracked block. Thankfully, this time we’re looking at something as minor as a starter that won’t start. I hope that’s all it is, because we have a job to do. The bookmobile is our way to provide library services to folks in remote areas, early readers in children’s groups, elderly folks no longer able to get around, and more. There is nothing like its services, and there is nothing like its adventures!

Yes, I had left Cambridge full of hope, prepared for eight hours on the road. Eagerly I started my audiocassette tape, Men Are from Mars, Women Are from Venus, determined to understand men by the time I returned to Cambridge. (I like a challenge!) Well, I never reached eight hours on the road, I still don’t understand men, but I did finish my tape—and “it was a good thing.” Little did I know that I’d be riding back to Cambridge entertained by stories from a guy named Jug. Using my newfound knowledge, I enjoyed the ride and conversation (as well as the obligatory quiet times, of course).

So, next time I venture out on the bookmobile, I’ll be shopping the shelves for an audiocassette tape on either diesel mechanics or a sequel to the Martians and Venusians. We never know what to expect on the bookmobile—apart from groups of eager readers who are always thrilled to see us. Can it get any better than that!?

Jackie Shaefer, Bookmobile Driver

Library on wheels

The Bookmobile is back on the road. After over a month in the repair shop getting a new engine, the Bookmobile is serving its patrons. It’s plain to see how much this mobile library service is loved by the people who wait for its arrival as they lamented over how much they missed it while it was off the road.

I had my first experience on the Bookmobile on Saturday. Not only has the Bookmobile been laid up, its primary driver and main back-up have also been sidelined due to surgery. When we got the call on Friday that the substitute driver was also sick, I knew that we couldn’t cancel the Saturday stop in Onamia. So I took a big gulp and volunteered to drive the behemoth to Onamia — as long as Jackie (who is 50% back) was able to come along with me to navigate.

So it was at 8:00 on Saturday morning that Jackie and I headed north. Jackie’s calm voice coaching me over those first few miles — “now turn when your wheels are here . . . watch the fish-eye mirrors” etc. made the trip relatively easy and we rolled along without incident. First stop was the gas station. I was so proud that we pulled up to the pump just the right distance from the nozzle. I filled the tank and got back on the road, and then Jackie said, “That was really good. ______ hit the gas pump.” (named former staff member to remain anonymous). Oh boy, now she tells me.

The first few miles west on 95, I admit I piled up a little bit of traffic behind me. 45 MPH seemed awfully fast, and frankly I decided that it didn’t hurt anyone to slow down a bit and enjoy the beautiful spring morning. Fairly soon the road was rolling by more quickly and we were up to traveling speed.

We arrived in Onamia on time. I informed Jackie that I didn’t intend to include backing the beast up as part of my first-day training, so if we weren’t able to pull straight up to the expected stopping point I would keep right on going and drive straight back to Cambridge. At that, Jackie broke into gales of laughter. Fortunately that wasn’t necessary, and we parked without incident. Good thing too, because people were waiting for us. I had to waive them back in order to swing the door open and bring the steps down.

For 2 and a half hours people came on the Bookmobile almost steady. At one point, there were so many people in the library that I feared that we’d soon have a line out the door. They good-naturedly jostled past each other, greeting their community friends with pleasure. People of all ages, they all checked out stacks of stuff. Some received items they’d requested from other libraries and were thrilled. When we told them that next weekend the Bookmobile was taking a rest for the Memorial Day weekend they all went back and found additional items to fill an extra week.

It hardly seemed possible when 12:00 came and it was time to pull in the steps and head for home. The drive back started out uneventfully until we came into a sudden shower. Jackie said “turn on the wipers.” I said “I can’t, I don’t know where they are.” (who knew in the earlier sunshine that we’d need them.) Jackie, still calm, said reach to the left and forward, and sure enough, there was the switch under my fingers and engaged without taking my eyes from the road.

What a good morning it was. If I had any doubts about the importance of our mobile service they are gone. Visit our Bookmobile — your library card is accepted there the same as at any bricks and mortar library.

Click for more photos from our Saturday Bookmobile adventure
Bookmobile in Onamia

Barbara Misselt, ECRL Director