I don't know who came up with this name for bookmobilers, but it always made me feel good to think it of myself, when I ran the library bookmobile in the 1990's. The idea is that bookmobiles establish "beachheads" for library services, regular stops in places, often rural, that will someday be succeeded by permanent branch libraries.
A bookmobile librarian is a librarian who is also a truck driver, an odd combination. When I applied for the job, it mattered that I had once driven a school bus.
It is a lonely job: only you and your assistant, without the larger crew of a branch or a department to help out, and your work is invisible to the rest of the library. It is physically demanding: heavy canvas bags of requests and returns must be handled, and at senior communities an indoor service desk and collection must be set up and taken down several times daily.
The hazards of the road, mechanical breakdowns and severe weather, are facts of life. The hardest times were in winter, driving in from miles out in the cold and dark, wanting only to see the lights of the truck route, Capital Circle, that would signal I was almost home.
And yet I used to tell myself, rolling down a leafy country lane on a beautiful day, to remember it, that I was privileged to have such freedom, such close friendships with my readers, and to be so relied upon for books to read.
The opening of two new branch locations this fall, in Woodville and on Pedrick Road east of town, will mean the end of two of the remaining rural bookmobile stops at Woodville and at Chaires. The old stops at Bradfordville and at Fort Braden were replaced by branch libraries years ago. Only the double stop at the Miccosukee Land Coop and Miccosukee proper, and the newer stop at Southwood will remain of the rural stops.
The old bookmobile frontier is just about over. Bookmobile services will be devoted increasingly to senior communities and assisted living facilities.
Raise a glass to all bookmobile librarians! But for them, many readers would have nowhere to turn.