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Dover Post
  • Kent County’s bookmobile turns 25 this year

  • Kent County has provided bookmobile service in one form or another for the past 25 years. To ring in the bookmobile’s silver anniversary, the Kent County Public Library kicked off events with a celebration on April 16, also known as National Bookmobile Day.
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  • Kent County has provided bookmobile service in one form or another for the past 25 years. To ring in the bookmobile’s silver anniversary, the Kent County Public Library kicked off events with a celebration on April 16, also known as National Bookmobile Day.
    The library also gave out blank paper templates so that people could decorate three-dimensional paper bookmobiles. Festivities for the anniversary will continue on until August, the anniversary month.
    In the early days of the bookmobile, there wasn’t a dedicated library that served the county as there is now with the Kent County Public Library, so the books that were rotated in and out of the bookmobile were stored in the basement of the Kent County building. Before the county took over the bookmobile service in 1989, the state Division of Libraries ran the show.
    “We’ve evolved as things have changed,” said Gunning, who has served as bookmobile librarian for 10  years. 
    Lucy the Bookmobile has been racking up miles since 2004. Hartly siblings Lucy and Walter Urban, frequent bookmobile users, bequeathed money to the Kent County Library, which allowed the county to purchase a new bookmobile vehicle. The name was given to honor Lucy Urban, according to Kent County Administrator Mike Petit de Mange.
    The bookmobile was developed to provide greater coverage to the county, said Hilary Welliver, director of the Kent County Division of Libraries.
    “Kent County is a fairly rural area,” Welliver said. “There are a lot of places where it is a fairly long drive to get to the nearest library.  Underserved areas are the areas Lucy specializes in.”
    In her 10-year history, Lucy has had some mechanical problems, which warranted Kent County Levy Court to discuss the option of terminating the service back in the fall. Despite some bumps along the way, Levy Court has no intention of putting the brakes on Lucy, Petit de Mange said.
    “We discussed whether or not Levy Court was interested in continuing the bookmobile service or phasing it out, and the indication was Levy Court wanted to continue to provide the service,” Petit de Mange said. ”It is something that is utilized by a lot of residents. It is a valid and viable county service that we’d like to continue to provide.”
    Last year the fuel pump, oil pump and brake system on the bookmobile all had to be replaced; the repairs cost roughly $4,000. Maintenance and fuel costs for the bookmobile are covered by a state grant provided to the Kent County Library to fund library service costs. Kent County Levy Court typically budgets about $8,000 a year to spend on fuel and maintenance for Lucy, Petit de Mange said. The county then files to have the money it spends reimbursed through the grant funding.
    Page 2 of 2 - Lucy makes 15 stops a week, traveling from the Veteran’s Home in Milford to Byler’s Country Store in Hartly and Spring Meadow in Smyrna. The bookmobile helps to circulate roughly 11,000 items per year, Petit de Mange said.
    In the short term, the plan is to continue to maintain the current bookmobile and budget contingency money for repairs. Even with a little more than 70,000 miles, Lucy has life left in her, Petit de Mange said.
    In the long term, the plan is to look at the possibility of using a slightly different vehicle as the bookmobile. Lucy carries a lot of books and, therefore, a lot of weight. The county may look to carry fewer books and may loan out more E-readers, Petit de Mange said.
    For the time being though, Welliver is focused on making sure Lucy serves her community to the best of her abilities.
    “We just want to be able to continue to improve services for Kent County through bookmobile service,” she said, “and evolve to meet the needs and change as needs change to deliver the best library service we can through the mobile unit.”
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