Bookmobile has miles to go and isn’t slowing down

More libraries are increasing their community outreach by moving into bookmobile style vehicles.

PANORAMA PARK, Iowa -- On a Monday afternoon,  Dennis Wadham pulled over, positioning the Scott County Bookmobile he was driving on the side of a quiet street in Panorama Park.

Bookmobile Associate Cathy Zimmerman got up from her seat and pulled a stack of books from a back shelf.

"I've got four things for Georgia," she said, handing Wadham the books, just as Georgia Lightner and her daugther stepped onto the bus. The mother and daugther are longtime patrons.

More libraries are increasing their community outreach by moving into bookmobile style vehicles, said Zimmerman, who is also national vice president and president-elect of the Association of Bookmobiles and Outreach Services.

The Scott County Bookmobile this fall started mvoing from a two-week rotation schedule to a three-week schedule in order to add additional stops, and it has begun serving the towns of Blue Grass and Buffalo.

"On any given day, we probably do 150 miles," she said, explaining that she and Wadham covered every part of Scott County outside of city limits.

The stop in Panorama Park has become a ritual for Lightner and now her daughter Mandy.

"I have been coming to the bookmobile for about 65 years when they first started. I’ve been coming since I was a little kid," she said, adding that romance, mystery, whodunnits were her favorite novels.

Mandy picked out a Mary Poppins movie and two children's books.

Before each trip, Zimmerman makes sure there's something for her regular patrons and something for everyone: magazines, board books for young children, adult nonfiction, books about Iowa, large prints.

The bookmobile regularly stops at nursing homes or senior centers, where Zimmerman conducts programs for the elderly, but also at schools.

A teacher might be doing a unit on bats and request every available book on bats for several weeks.

"We can bring those services to them that isn’t taking time out of their busy day to go to library."

"It’s fun to help the kids learn to read." But serving the eldery was just as rewarding, she said. "I get an immense pleasure out of going to the senior centers and putting on travel logs for them. I call it armed chair travel."

"I’m there from the time they start reading picture books until they need me to help them remember that they read picture books."

For nearly 70 years, the bookmobile has meandered down neighborhood streets and country roads all over Scott County.

It's showing no signs of slowing down anytime soon.

Zimmerman estimated that libraries have added more than 100 bookmobiles in the past decade. Nationwide there are 900-1000 mobile units, four of them in Iowa. The Davenport Public Library plans to add a mobile library in the spring.

"We see that bookmobiles and outreach is growing. It’s because people are needing more services. Libraries are realizing that they need to go to people. There’s a huge demographic of seniors that are needing services," she said.