LAKE COUNTY, Calif. — Thanks to a $199,865 grant from the California State Library, a sleek new bookmobile is slated to traverse Lake County roads to bring library services to communities not currently served by a local branch.
Lake County Librarian Christopher Veach said it’s long been a goal of the library to better reach the differing and sometimes isolated regions of Lake County.
He believes that libraries are for everyone, wherever they live, and hopes to bring easier library access to more Lake County residents through the bookmobile.
Veach, a Lake County native who has served as his librarian since 2013, was inspired to apply for the grant as an extension of their desire to make libraries as accessible as possible during the COVID-19 pandemic.
He envisions that the bookmobile will be used to serve communities that are furthest from the four established branches in the county, the main branch in Lakeport, Redbud Library in Clearlake, and the branches in Upper Lake and Middletown.
The Riviera area and North Shore communities will be among the beneficiaries of the bookmobile’s visits, with regularly scheduled stops in areas where people tend to congregate.
Typically, a bookmobile stops at a venue for about an hour, so it’s likely it could make three or four stops a day based on a regular schedule. The plan is for the bookmobile to travel a prearranged route several times a week, with the other days devoted to visiting schools and making appearances at public events.
Most of the grant money will be used to cover the cost of the vehicle, which will be a Mercedes-Benz Sprinter van customized to the library’s specifications.
Some rural counties use larger vehicles as bookmobiles; Mendocino County, for example, has a camper-sized bookmobile. However, Veach feels the smaller size is more practical for Lake County’s narrow and sometimes mountainous roads, as well as easier for staff to commandeer.
Another benefit of a smaller vehicle is that it makes visits to schools and other venues, like farmers’ markets or festivals, much easier.
Customization can be a long process, and under normal circumstances it can take up to a year. The mobile library may not be ready to hit the road until early 2023, particularly if supply challenges wrought by the pandemic wind up affecting the process.
The library is required to provide matching funds, and this will be met via the cost of operation, maintenance, and insurance over the period of the grant, which ends in 2024.
The bookmobile will be like a branch on wheels, where people can browse books, sign up for library cards and have access to the internet. Chromebooks and Wi-Fi hot spots — hockey puck-like portable devices that provide internet access — will be available for the public’s use on site or for checkout.
Immediate access to between 700 and 1,000 volumes will be possible via the bookmobile, and just like at current branches, books can be requested for pickup there.
The van will have shelves to house books both inside and outside, where open-air browsing can be done under a protective canopy. Depending on the weather, tables and chairs for patrons will be set up under the canopy outside.
The library, which currently employs 18 full-time and part-time employees across its four branches, will hire an additional part-time staff member to operate the bookmobile and serve as its library clerk.
According to Veach, who has a passion for expanding library services, the Lake County Library offers a broad array of programs and resources for children and adults that extend beyond access to books.
Children’s programming includes weekly story times, Lego clubs and special craft events, such as the wildly popular Leprechaun trap workshops offered last month in honor of St. Patrick’s Day.
Six new digital career resources for job seekers were launched at the end of last year. These are provided free of charge for patrons with library cards and can be accessed via the “job seekers and career sources” option on the library website.
The library has an Adult Literacy program which matches tutors with adults who need help with their reading, writing or language skills. Virtual tutor training is provided, and any interested in the program should contact the Lakeport branch at 707-263-7633.
According to Veach, April marks the launch of a “Book-to-Action” reading program for adults. Participants will have the opportunity to collectively read and discuss “The Blue Zones of Happiness” by Dan Buettner and put their newfound knowledge into action via a community service project. Free copies of the book are available at Lake County branches while supplies last.
As usual, the library will offer summer reading challenges for children and adults, along with prizes awarded when reading goals are met.
The library website, http://library.lakecountyca.gov, provides access to a plethora of online resources and information. Visitors to the site can sign up for a weekly email newsletter with information on special events, ongoing programs, volunteer opportunities and book recommendations.
News of the bookmobile’s launch will be announced via the newsletter, which is also available at any of the county’s library branches.