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Thursday, May 23
The Indiana Daily Student


Bookmobile offers reading to families around community


A bright green van pulled up to Clear Creek Elementary School with shelves full of mystery, laughter and learning. The bookmobile was making its first stop of the day.

Chris Jackson, special audiences strategist for Monroe County Public Library, greeted the assistant principal of Clear Creek as he organized the books on the shelf.

“Hi Susan, how’s your day?” Chris Jackson said as the woman stepped into the van.

“Can you make shirts saying ‘We love the bookmobile,’” Susan Dick said. “Because every time I see the bookmobile I get a huge smile on my face.”

The Monroe County Public Library has used the bookmobile as a resource to allow families to check out books in a more accessible way for years. The bookmobile has been making stops around the area since 1929.

Lois Henze began driving the bookmobile in 1929, when the library was the Bloomington Library. Jackson said the bookmobile was the first movement of the library becoming a county entity rather than just a city system. At that time there were a large number of one-room schoolhouses, he said. Henze would drive out to these schools and check out books for the students.

“I still have some people who come to the bookmobile who remember Lois,” Jackson said. “They’re now in their 60s and 70s, but they remember when they were a kid.”

Since then, the bookmobile has evolved alongside techology. The bus is solar-powered, with solar charges at 3.7 amps to run the vehicle while they make their stops.

“We have solar panels on the roofs of the bookmobile,” Jackson said. “The system decides much like a Prius whether it needs to fire up the engine or not, that’s another modern development.”

The bookmobile is a part of the Monroe County Public Library operating budget, primarily funded through property taxes, Jackson said. He said they also get a small percentage of the county option income tax and fundraising from the Friends of the Library.

“We are a relatively well-funded library,” Jackson said. “Of course there are things we’d do if we had more funding, but the bookmobile has been strongly supported.”

Jackson, who’s been driving for almost 13 years, said the main goal of the bookmobile is accessibility. He said the library tries to reach three audiences. They reach the surrounding senior living centers, as well as the rural parts of the county population outside Bloomington and Ellettsville. They also try to stop around small towns including Unionville, Harrodsburg, Stanford and Kirksville.

He said they also reach low-income neighborhoods where families may be underserved. He said this may include families where parents may not have had the educational background or early literacy skills to feel comfortable navigating the library.

“The bookmobile is a way to try to remove some of those barriers so hopefully they’ll check us out and make it easy,” Jackson said.

Homeschooling families use the bookmobile to access materials they would need if they were in a regular school library. He said the library will take requests for items to fit the families’ curriculums, including both fiction and nonfiction books that will supplement the students’ learning.

Jackson said the library has close partnerships with the schools in the area. He said they want to support the schools’ libraries by possibly making stops during the school day, but does not want to jeopardize the school media centers who already have their budgets at risk.

However, he said it was something they were interested in exploring and already have implemented similar programs in recent years.

“We now visit some of the larger daycares with other vans,” Jackson said. “That’s a fairly new partnership with preschool education.”

Kolleen Smith came in with her family right before the end of the Clear Creek stop on the bookmobile’s route. She said her family used to go to the main library but now come here once a week. She said they check out books and movies.

“They’re all piled in the living room,” Smith said. “Everybody reads everything.”

The shelves rotate every five or six months, and the library tries to keep popular material on the shelves 

“We try to be a microcosm of any regular library,” Jackson said. “We carry almost all the formats the main library carries.”

The bookmobile’s schedule can be found on with location stops and times during the week.

He said the bus has a pretty regular clientele, with users coming in almost every week. This gives him the opportunity to learn everyone by name and even exchange book titles and authors with each other.

“It’s interesting for me because I get to see them grow up,” Jackson said. “There were some kids who were toddlers when I started, and now they’re in middle school, high school. I had some kids who were in middle school and high school when I started who are now parents of their own bringing their own kids. I really like to see that 

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