Bus, library, beacon of knowledge

The Bookmobile continues to serve rural library patrons after 20 years

By Lyndsie Kiebert
Reader Staff

Most great ideas are born of necessity. The East Bonner County Library District’s Bookmobile is no different.

Library Director Ann Nichols said the district purchased the beloved bus in 2000, when the current Sandpoint branch was built, in order to “help bring materials to those in the far reaches” of the library’s territory.

The iconic Bookmobile parked and waiting to provide enlightenment. Photo by Lyndsie Kiebert.

“Those people were instrumental in helping to get the library funded,” she said. “Our goal is to serve everyone to the best of our ability.”

The Bookmobile is a Blue Bird bus, designed and built especially to become a library on wheels. Current Bookmobile driver Michelle Shorman said the 26-foot vehicle weighs about 26,000 pounds.

“It’s a different experience than driving a little, newer car around,” Shorman said with a laugh. “You’ve got to pay attention constantly because everything is totally different in the bus.”

The Bookmobile’s shelf-lined walls allow for easy browsing, just like in a regular library. It also operates just like a regular branch — people can request materials from the library’s catalog, and Shorman brings them out on her next visit. Books, DVDs, CDs, magazines and games are all available, and Shorman is even able to fire up her wifi hotspot in most locations so that visitors can access the internet from their devices while visiting the Bookmobile.

“People request things and I bring those out, and people also just walk on the bus and are looking for movies for the week,” she said. “I switch them all, so there’s a new selection [each week].”

Also reminiscent of a regular library branch, there isn’t just one age demographic visiting the Bookmobile, according to Shorman.

“It’s a wide range,” she said, noting that everyone from families with children to elderly folks make regular appearances. “It is utilized by all ages.”

Shorman said she enjoys working with the Bookmobile because it means she’s “not stationary.”

“I get to go out and see the beauty of our county in all kinds of weather — except extreme weather,” she said.

Beyond the joy of the scenic drives, Shorman said she also enjoys visiting with the patrons and seeing all the reasons why people might be using library resources. On Thursdays, she alternates between visiting two area child care and preschool programs: The Kids Castle in Kootenai and Storybook Nook in the Bonner Mall. Seeing the kids enjoy the Bookmobile is particularly fun, Shorman said.

A patron browses selections inside the Bookmobile. Photo by Lyndsie Kiebert.

“The children … can come and get used to a library setting on the Bookmobile,” she said. “And they’re just intrigued anyway, because it’s a bus — it’s a library on a bus.”

Nichols said the Bookmobile continues to serve the library district’s mission to “provide access to opportunities for discovery connection, and lifelong learning” — particularly to those who call the outlying areas of Bonner County home.

“We have many patrons who are off the grid. They may live miles away from our two brick-and-mortar buildings, so we want to be able to get as close as possible to where they are to give them better access to all the library has to offer,” Nichols said. “It is important to help all Idahoans receive the information they need in today’s environment.”

Visit the Bookmobile on Tuesdays at the Pack River General Store (9:30-10:30 a.m.), Selle Valley School (11 a.m.-noon) or Samuels Store (12:30-3 p.m.); on Wednesdays at the Vay Store in Priest River (10-11:30 a.m.), Careywood Fire Station (12:30-1:30 p.m.) or Westmond Store (2-3 p.m.); or on Thursdays at The Kids Castle or Storybook Nook on alternating weeks (10:15-11 a.m.) and at the Old Hope School (noon-2:30 p.m.). Please respect current COVID-19 restrictions, including wearing a face covering and limiting the Bookmobile to one patron/family at a time. Learn more at ebonnerlibrary.org, or call the library district at 208-263-6930.

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