Several rows of books and DVDs line the walls neatly as eager readers step up into the Bookmobile Monday, Feb. 10.
Carol Miller, 69, looks up and down a few rows before making a selection. She has been visiting the Bookmobile on a fairly regular basis for a few years. She said she used to frequent the Cloquet Public Library, but after discovering the Bookmobile stops near her home, she made the switch.
“I heard the Bookmobile was only a few blocks away and I thought, 'I have never been to a Bookmobile,'" Miller said. “I came, and I was pretty impressed with what they had. Now this is my go-to library.”
While she prefers historical fiction, she said she sometimes switches it up with other subjects.
The first Arrowhead Library System (ALS) Bookmobile went into service in January 1965, said Jim Weikum, ALS executive director. The library system expanded the program in the 1970s to five vehicles, then downsized in 1991 to one.
Around 3,000 of the media available for check-out have been published or recorded within the past two years. Plus, the vehicle gets new items weekly.
There are a variety of items available, from popular adult fiction and nonfiction books to children's books, DVDs, audiobooks on CD, music CDs and video games, said Ted Lewis, the Bookmobile's driver.
Much of Northern Minnesota has dead zones without television or internet access, so people need something to help pass the time.
“It’s actually been on the upswing," he said, "Which is ironic in this age of the internet.”
Lewis drives the Bookmobile and is one of two people who staff it. Beth Morgan works as a part-time library clerk for the vehicle.
“We drive about 3,000 miles a month,” Lewis said. “Today will be about 200 miles.”
Morgan said the majority of the Bookmobile's customers are adults, since students are at school when the Bookmobile makes its rounds. In the summer, the number of children who use the service increases.
The Bookmobile is open to everyone, Weikum said. People just need a library card to check out items.
The Bookmobile does not serve cities that already have a public library.
However, people who check items out from the Bookmobile can return them to a local library and the library will make sure the items get back to the Bookmobile.
“It is not unusual for patrons from cities with libraries or patrons from other Minnesota regions to visit the Bookmobile and borrow materials,” Weikum said.
Weikum said the Bookmobile's busiest stops are Lake Venoah, followed by Kettle River and Mahtowa. The total circulation of items at those places in 2019 was a little over 3,100.
The Bookmobile stops in Brookston, Esko, Wrenshall, Kettle River, Wright, Cromwell, Mahtowa, Barnum and Lake Venoah each month. The stops are on a three-week rotating schedule. The Monday visits can be a bit tricky because so many legal holidays fall on that day, said Weikum. Holidays usually cause the Bookmobile to skip those stops.
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