A library on wheels

The city of Richmond bookmobile chugged up Hilltop Drive and pulled into the Small World Montessori School parking lot.

Shortly after arriving, a dozen five-year-olds hopped on to the custom-built recreational vehicle and began grabbing informative books about dinosaurs and cutesy storybooks illustrated with pictures of personified animals.

Four days out of the week, the bookmobile treks to many of the schools in Richmond and its surrounding areas, providing children access to books who may not be able to visit one of the city’s three library branches.

“It’s unusual to have a city of our size that really needs a bookmobile,” said Katy Curl, library and cultural services director. “We find it very important to be able to take our services out to the community.”

Inside the bright green-and-white painted RV sit numerous, six-shelved bookcases that wrap around the walls, filled with about 3,000 books for students to check out and take home to read.

But its size hinders it from serving the entire community.

“This bookmobile is too large to access (some locations),” said Wolfgang Moll, bookmobile driver and assistant librarian.

After a two-year fundraising campaign, the Richmond Public Library Foundation is nearing the $100,000 it needs to purchase a book van, which would supplement the bookmobile.

“We’re at $86,000,” said Sandi Genser-Maack, president of the foundation.

Genser-Maack said the idea was borne out of a 2009 needs-assessment survey of Richmond library users: People wanted greater access to library materials and more services for seniors and the homebound.

She said the book van would have features to improve access to the books, such as rolling book stacks, so workers could bring books into classrooms, senior centers and community events.

The van would feature materials for teens and adults, while the bookmobile would continue to serve schoolchildren. “It’s a different service, and we’re hoping to be able to hit some different (places),” Curl said.

Genser-Maack said the smaller size would allow the book van to travel to parts of Richmond where the bookmobile couldn’t, such as narrow roads.

“It can make more public appearances,” she said.

She said the support of the community is important.

“We want that community feeling, people to be involved,” Genser-Maack said.

For more information, visit www.rplf.org.

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