Library Features...

COMMUNITY OUTREACH: Bookmobile Takes the Library to the Community
Branch: Outreach

SCPL's Bookmobile
SO MANY CHOICES: Kids can't wait
for the Bookmobile to arrive
at a stop near them

When the Bookmobile visited Hidden Creek Apartments in Santa Cruz on a fine summer afternoon, they were greeted by a little girl waving a shiny blue library card. "I can take out as many books as I want!" crowed Koneni Joshitha Naidu, who'd applied for the card on her first visit to the Bookmobile two weeks earlier. She proceeded to race around the Bookmobile's confined space, piling books into her mother's arms. "I like this, and this," she told the Bookmobile staff, who took mental notes on their new patron's tastes.

The Bookmobile is crammed to the gills with books in regular and large print, magazines, books on tape and CD, and movies on both VHS and DVD, offering patrons plenty of browsing choices. In addition, they can request any item in the SCPL system. Some with computer access place their own requests online, but many wait to ask the staff's advice on what to request, and how. Requested items -- at some stops, a crateload -- are brought along on the Bookmobile's next run.

"We get to know our clientele really well," said driver Eric Chalfant. Each stop has its own flavor: some are rural, others are in out-of-the-way urban pockets; some are dominated by families, others by older adults. At several stops, Spanish is the primary language. Everywhere, the staff is greeted warmly.

The Bookmobile is one of the library system's most recognizable and enduring outreach efforts. Every year it logs about 8,500 miles. The current vehicle, which has been on the road for a decade, comes equipped with solar power to run the lights and computers inside.

"The mission of the Bookmobile, and all of Outreach, is to make library services accessible and comfortable to all of our potential patrons who might not otherwise use the library," says Outreach Manager Gale Farthing. "It is very gratifying to all of us to have the kind of response that we get at Hidden Creek and all of our other Bookmobile stops. We do develop a personal relationship with most of our Bookmobile patrons and that is rewarding for us and for them."

Dyane Villalobos, the manager of Hidden Creek Apartments, said she invited the Bookmobile to come because she wanted a positive summer program for the children there. She's been very happy with the results.

"It's helped create a real sense of community from the very beginning," she said. "The parents have participated, and the kids come to the office excited, asking when it's going to be here. It's been nothing but a positive experience."

story by Mike Wallace