Today is National Bookmobile Day celebrating our nation’s bookmobiles and the dedicated library professionals who provide this valuable and essential service to their communities every day.
Two Wyoming libraries have bookmobiles: Laramie County Library System and Natrona County Public Library. These two rolling libraries reach small towns, schools, and other stops to reach out to the community. We invited both libraries to tell us a bit more about their bookmobiles.
Laramie County Library System
A year-round traveling library, the Laramie County Library System bookmobile offers a variety of books and audiobooks for all ages in various genres. Everyone is welcome to use the bookmobile at any stop. The bookmobile has 915 registered patrons and had circulation of 12,062 last year. LCLS outreach specialist Susan Parkins shares what it’s like to drive the bookmobile:
As the senior outreach specialist, the bookmobile is one of my responsibilities. Laramie County Library has had a bookmobile in service for well over 40+ years. Our current vehicle, a 9 ½ year old, 32’ bus, is easy to spot on the road! It is adorned with a vinyl wrap with pictures of places around the world as well as around Laramie County.
My job includes driving the bookmobile to various locations, both rural and local. My farthest stop is in Albin, Wyoming which is located about 60 miles from Cheyenne in the far north east part of Laramie County. The bookmobile also serves as the library in the town of Carpenter, about 35 miles east of Cheyenne. Rural communities are not the only patrons to receive this outreach library service. The bookmobile also goes to a variety of local small school settings, daycares, and some community stops as well.
Road trips are always an adventure, and the drives out to Albin or Carpenter are no exception! High winds and wintry weather can make for some interesting travels.
It is always a delight to see the excitement of the children as the bookmobile rolls in to its parking spot at a community stop. At West Winds, the children come straight off the school bus and onto the bookmobile. Not only is it a great place to check out library materials, it is a great place to hang out, cool off or warm up depending on the season, sit and read a book or play on one of the two computers. We also provide an afterschool snack for the children who stop by.
In addition to children’s books that are available to check out we also have adult fiction and non-fiction. You can request items to be sent out on the bookmobile and pick them up at the stop closest to you. Items on the bookmobile (with the exception of a few specific items) check out for four weeks rather than three weeks at the other libraries in Cheyenne, Burns or Pine Bluffs.
Natrona County Library Bookmobile
The bookmobile, a traveling, full-service branch of the Natrona County Library, has served Natrona County residents for decades and has been known by many different names over the years.
In 1969, using earmarked funds from a library bond, the library purchased its first bookmobile — a $24,000 converted school bus. Christened the “Reading Roustabout,” it traveled throughout Natrona County, making as many as thirty stops per week.
On July 8, 1981, using optional one-cent tax money, a new vehicle was purchased to replace the Reading Roustabout. Dubbed “Old Blue,” it remained in operation for nearly twenty-five years. During an average week, it made approximately twenty stops at rural schools, homebound residences, preschools, day care facilities, and suburban neighborhoods.
On July 7, 2004, Old Blue was replaced with a new vehicle. Using optional one-cent tax money and a donation from the Friends of the Natrona County Library, the library bought a model from Matthew’s Specialty Vehicles of Greensboro, North Carolina. The creation of an exterior design to reflect Wyoming’s unique heritage brought community interest and involvement. Local artist Chris Navarro created the overall concept and Library Board members Chris Mullen arranged historical icons and petroglyphs. Bob Treick of Wit’s End Photography took the photo of Casper Mountain, which served as the background of the design. The new bookmobile made regular stops at over fifty locations, including Alcova, Bar Nunn, the Casper Recreation Center, Evansville, Mountain View, Paradise Valley, Poison Spider, Powder River, Vista Hills, and Wolf Creek.
In August 2013, the bookmobile received a makeover. The 2004 graphics coating the outside of the vehicle had become chipped, cracked, and faded over time. Creation and installation of new graphics was made possible with private funds donated by the Natrona County Library Foundation. The new look was designed to remind people of all ages of the importance of literacy, and encourage children and families to spend time reading together. The message coincides with that of the “We Read” program, a partnership between the Casper Star-Tribune, Natrona County School District, and the library, and supported by many local foundations, businesses, and individuals. Its aim is to promote and support literacy as a community-wide value and reading as an important, multiage, mentoring activity.
The literacy message is particularly appropriate because the bookmobile spends much of its time visiting local daycares, preschools, and schools. Children at these establishments have the opportunity to choose books they will enjoy, while teachers can keep a fresh supply of reading material on hand for students to use, refreshed every two weeks when the bookmobile stops by again.
However, the bookmobile is not just for kids; it travels throughout the city and county, providing library service to senior living facilities, neighborhood gathering places, and outlying towns.
All stops are open to the public. Natrona County residents are welcome to come aboard at any bookmobile stop to apply for a library card or check out items. Bookmobile patrons may also request items from any Wyoming library for delivery at their bookmobile stop, or return items from other libraries to the bookmobile.
The bookmobile currently makes 1,100 stops annually, delivering 5400 books, magazines, movies, and CDs to the 7,500 patrons who visit the bookmobile every year.