A Day in the Life of the Bookmobile

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The Bookmobile parked at the Colonnades, a retirement community.

While the majority of Library users have not experienced the Bookmobile first hand, this mobile library is an incredible resource to our community, providing library services to those around Charlottesville and Albemarle County that might not otherwise have access to them.  To help demystify the Bookmobile for those who haven’t yet been on board, read a little more about JMRL’s library-on-wheels, and take a virtual tour!

There are two JMRL staff members who work on the Bookmobile – Willow Gale and Alan Van Clief. Willow has been the Bookmobile Manager for 12 years, and handles the Bookmobile office and the Albemarle County stops. Alan Van Clief works part-time and handles the Charlottesville stops. The Bookmobile visits each stop twice a month – view the schedule here.

The Bookmobile has a home base in the lower level of the new Northside Library, which is where the majority of the Bookmobile book collection is held.  There are 1800-2000 books on this mobile library at any one time, which include a wide variety of genres (popular fiction, mystery, sci-fi, true crime, cook books, biographies, etc.) and formats (large print, audiobooks, graphic novels, etc.), across all age groups. Willow knows the types of things that many of her patrons at different stops will like, so she packs in authors and genres to please them. Of course, the Bookmobile also has access to the entire JMRL collection at any time, so if there is anything that a patron needs that isn’t on the bus, all he/she needs to do is place a hold on an item to have it sent out on the Bookmobile.

More than just a place to find good books – the Bookmobile is also a mobile community space. When people gather around the Bookmobile, they catch up with friends from their community. Even on wheels, libraries can help bring people together.

Now that you’ve learned more about it, are you ready to take the virtual tour?

We start out at the Northside Library at 705 W. Rio Rd. The parking lot is located at the back of the building, which is also where the Bookmobile is parked when it isn’t on the road.

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The back entrance of the new Northside Library, which houses the Bookmobile office and garage.

Here in the office, Willow and Alan load up books to take out on the Bookmobile and pull items for holds.  The shelves (below left) house the collection that doesn’t fit on the bus. Depending on what stops they are visiting, Willow and Alan pull different books for different stops to stock the Bookmobile, and take the holds for those stops as well. The hold shelf (below right) is divided by day and by stop.

Now hop on board the Bookmobile!  A ramp unfolds with the touch of a button, making the vehicle accessible to everyone. A tiny desk (below left) holds a laptop that connects to WiFi and allows Willow and Alan to place holds for patrons, check items in and out, and do on-the-g0 reference. Shelves are angled slightly so that books don’t fall when the Bookmobile is in motion.

Meet Willow Gale – (below) Willow greets patrons when they enter the Bookmobile. She has a knack for remembering a patron’s favorite genres and authors. If you’re reading a series, she will make sure to have the next one ready for you, and she’s always happy to take requests.

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Patrons are greeted by Willow when they enter the Bookmobile.

For more questions about the Bookmobile, feel free to email questions to Willow Gale (willow@jmrl.org) or call the office at 434.973.7893 x2. And if you ever see the Bookmobile out and about, feel free to stop in for a visit.

Last but not least, here’s a short video so you can see what patrons think of their Bookmobile. This video was recorded by a student intern during the summer of 2014.

What do you think?

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