I wanted to share the article I wrote for the Upper Bucks Free Press (the newspaper I write for) for the March 2015 issue! The street and online version were just published. To see the online version of the newspaper, click HERE or on the column picture (see page 8) or you can read the whole story – plus some extra things I’ve thrown in – below! 😀
I hope you like the article!
My Day as a Traveling Librarian
By Erik Weibel
Recently, I was able to take part in a great learning experience. I was an apprentice traveling librarian with the Columbia County Traveling Library (CCTL). The American Library Association reports that there are less than 1000 bookmobiles in America today. It is estimated that only 37 bookmobiles exist in Pennsylvania. What is unique about the CCTL is that it is the ONLY library in Pennsylvania whose primary function is that of a bookmobile.
The CCTL is committed to bringing library services to the citizens of rural Columbia County PA. The bookmobile makes stops at specific locations every 2 weeks. It serves people who would otherwise not have access to a free public library, or the means to get to one. The Director and Head Librarian of the CCTL, Dr. Lydia Kegler, agreed to let me hang out for a day’s route aboard the bookmobile and learn what a CCTL librarian does.
The CCTL has a small brick and mortar location in Scott Township, PA where they house a large part of their collection. That’s where my day began. “Most of the work in libraries is done before the book hits the shelf,” Dr. Kegler states, as she hands me a book to shelve. Librarians must find the books of interest to their patrons, buy the books, protect the books with an outer wrap, code the book, catalog the book, and shelve it. On top of all that, because this library is a bookmobile, they’ve got to gas up and make sure the brakes work! Dr. Kegler explains to me that, because the CCTL is a small organization, everyone does a bit of everything. Some bigger libraries have more specialized librarians who focus on a certain job, but at smaller libraries like the CCTL, Librarians find themselves doing all sorts of jobs. Dr. Kegler is the manager, head librarian and occasional bookmobile operator.
From here, we loaded up the bookmobile with the books it needed for today’s journey. Dr. Kegler gave me a crate of books that will go to a retirement home. She explained that the bookmobile leaves a collection of books at the home for the residents and every so often they go and refresh the collection and change some books out. Next, we found some books that patrons had requested through the online reservation system. “This person wanted this book on China,” Dr. Kegler says pointing out a book. “I know this family is a homeschooling family. They may be doing a lesson. Look, here are two more useful books on China. We’ll bring those along too just in case they may want them.”
I add the books on China to another crate that is over-flowing with books. “This here is a handtruck.” Mrs. Kegler smiles at me. “We use this as a means to carry the crates of books that are needed for this trip to the bookmobile.” She helps me load two plastic crates onto the handtruck, and I push it through the hallway, out to the bookmobile. I hand up the crates to her and she sets them down inside.
We make one last trip into the building to grab a quick lunch and make a run to the restroom. One of the hazards of working on a bookmobile in a rural area; no bathroom breaks. Once on the bookmobile, Dr. Kegler checks it out to make sure it is safe to drive. As we buckle into our seats, Dr. Kegler smiles and dons a pair of sunglasses. “Cool shades are a necessary part of being a bookmobile librarian too, you know.” I quickly put on a pair of aviator glasses. Cool indeed.
Our first stop is a preschool. The young kids climbed onto the bookmobile with books in their hands, and excited looks on their faces. I was put in charge of using the stamper, for the due dates, and the scanner, for checking in/out. The scanner wasn’t working 100% of the time (that may have been a function of my inexperience). Let me tell you, a line of frustrated, impatient preschoolers in front of you isn’t a pretty sight. Luckily, I got the job done in time, thanks to Dr. Kegler’s expertise in running the scanner (and soothing angry preschoolers). The bookmobile is surprisingly large inside. At that one stop, there were 10-12 kids and 3 adult helpers comfortably fitting inside. That’s also with Dr. Kegler and me behind the circulation desk at the front of the bookmobile.
After the preschool, we go to three more stops in the area. As we are rolling along the windy, snow covered roads, Dr. Kegler points out one of the marvels that you don’t normally find at a regular library – the weather change! While we were driving, the weather conditions went from snow squalls to a brilliantly sunny day.
When asked the oddest request that she’s received as the librarian, Dr. Kegler responded that once a man came on asking for the instruction manual for a certain model of a blowtorch. Regrettably, they did not have what he was asking for.
At each of the next stops, I would make the rounds and pick up any books that may have slid off the shelves while driving (surprisingly, there are very few). I’d also reshelve books that were checked in from the previous stop.
Dr. Kegler explained to me that the CCTL is currently trying to raise money to replace their aging bookmobile. Their current bookmobile is 17 years old and has over 100,000 miles on it. Dr. Kegler hopes to get some technological devices inside of the new bookmobile to make it easy for residents to find what they are looking for and a computer station so that patrons who don’t have access to a computer or the internet can use it on the bookmobile.
Sadly, Dr. Kegler wouldn’t let me drive the bookmobile (something about lawsuits and her losing her job) but, even with that disappointment, I had a great day and learned a lot.
If you are interested in learning more about the CCTL, please visit their website – www.cctlibrary.org
For more on books and reading, visit my website – www.ThisKidReviewsBooks.com