Bookmobile librarians develop relationships with readers of all ages

August 25, 2003|LIZ MAPLES

On a recent Wednesday morning, Carol McCracken waited for her new John Grisham novel.

She loves mysteries, especially Sue Grafton, who writes letter-themed mystery novels, and Lilian Jackson Braun, the cat novelist. After she finished those, Boyle County librarian Debbie Brown suggested she try Grisham.

Brown brought her "The Firm," a legal thriller about a rookie lawyer who takes a job at an odd legal firm. McCracken couldn't wait to delve into it.

"They find books for me that, if I went to the library, I'd never find," she said.

McCracken doesn't have to go to the library. The bookmobile comes to her twice a week at McDowell Place, an assisted living community.


The bookmobile travels all over Boyle County to bring books to those who can't make it to the library. Bringing books to people is a long tradition in Kentucky.

It started in 1937, when the Works Projects Administration began the Packhorse Librarian program. Men and women brought books and journals to isolated, rural areas by horseback.

Bookmobile program began in 1954

In 1954, the bookmobile program began and the demand for full-library services quickly followed, according to the Kentucky Department of Libraries and Archives Web site. To this day Kentucky leads the country in number of bookmobiles and is the only state that still makes home visits.

Down a winding road that passes by the Perryville Battlefield State Park, Dwight Conley and his granddaughter, Jordan, 4, drive up to meet the librarians on an all-terrain vehicle. Conley wanted a Puerto Rican cookbook. He lived in Florida for awhile and has been trying to duplicate some of the dishes he found there. There were no Puerto Rican cookbooks at the library, so librarian Sherry Hoskins researched the subject on the Internet and made him a recommended list of Web sites.

Jordan was quick to pick out what she wanted from the shelves - books about dinosaurs.

Hoskins likes knowing her patrons' tastes.

"I just feel like - even though we get paid - that we are doing a service that is needed and appreciated," she said.

Many of the books return with fresh vegetables

In Perryville, the bookmobile is like the town's library branch. Many of the books are returned with fresh grown vegetables. The librarians know these patrons by name and exchange news with them about other people they've seen on their stops - who's sick, who's well. They fulfill promises to say, "Hello."

Many of the readers here bring requests, and some let the librarians pick out their reading material. Hoskins keeps a penciled-in list of readers' initials in books' front covers so she never recommends the same book twice.

A regular library patron met them at a recent stop in Heather Hills. He was surprised to know that he could use the bookmobile just like the library.

Librarians say, "How much does it cost?" is their most frequently asked question. It's free. The service is provided by the KDLA and paid for with taxpayers' money.

Even kids who don't have library cards can get books.

At Heather Hills, librarians Sue Hester and Hoskins had story time for children. Afterwards, the children were allowed to choose one book from a bin. The next time the bookmobile comes around they are expected to return the book. The exercise teaches them responsibility, Hoskins said.

The bin books are donated, so if they went missing it wouldn't matter, but they don't tell the kids that. The librarians want the kids to get used to borrowing books.

Carolyn Durham has been a faithful library patron her whole life, and when she moved to McDowell Place that didn't stop.

Twice a month, the bookmobile makes Durham light up. It is a chance to visit with her long-time librarian friends and get a new batch of audio books.

When she can't sleep, she listens to a book

When she can't sleep Durham turns on her boombox and listens to a book - fiction, nonfiction, biographies and romance.

"Even at 89, I enjoy the romance novels," she said, laughing.

Hoskins hooked her arm around Carolyn Durham's and grabbed a grocery sack full of audio books. While they walked to Durham's apartment, they exchanged news and laughs.

The two have known each other for years. When Durham lived on Perryville Road, the bookmobile librarians came to see her. They would stop there for a cup of coffee and bring her books.

"It's a wonderful service and the visits are wonderful," Durham said.

Central Kentucky News Articles