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Bookmobile Promotes Literacy at CMSM

One of the weekly features at the Children’s Museum of Southern Minnesota is the visit from the Bookmobile. Every Wednesday at 2pm, the big bus decorated like a warm summer’s day pulls up to the Museum. The blue sky and green grass on the bus welcome children of all ages. The North Mankato Library has been bringing their books to local events and rural locations for years, and always makes people smile. 

The Bookmobile program has been around for decades, bringing books and more to people all over. The North Mankato Taylor Library took over the management of the Bookmobile program in 2008, and the Bookmobile has been a staple at the Children’s Museum of Southern Minnesota since January of 2016.

BOOKMOBILE HISTORY

Bookmobiles have been around in some form or another for centuries, with early examples dating back to the 1850s. However, the modern bookmobile as we know it today didn’t come into existence until the 20th century.

North Mankato Taylor Library Bookmobile

The first bookmobile in the United States was launched in 1905 by the Washington County Free Library in Maryland. It was a horse-drawn wagon that carried books to rural areas where there were no libraries. Bookmobiles gained popularity in the 1920s and 1930s, and by the 1950s, they were a common sight on American roads.

Bookmobiles have played an important role in promoting literacy and providing access to books, especially in rural and underserved communities. They have also adapted to changing times and technologies, with many bookmobiles now carrying not just books but also e-books, audiobooks, and other digital media.

Today, bookmobiles can be found all over the world, from the United States to Australia to Africa. They continue to serve as mobile libraries, bringing books and other resources to communities that might not otherwise have access to them.

A DAY IN THE LIFE OF THE BOOKMOBILE

The big bus full of books leaves the library to head out on its route every Monday-Thursday at 9am. Bookmobile Librarian Amy Hunt loves the people the most. 

“Adults who bring their children tell me about when they visited the Bookmobile when they were kids.” 

The Bookmobile makes around 20 stops per week, visiting daycare centers, in-home daycares, assisted living homes, small private schools, and rural towns in Nicollet County that do not have their own library.

“I love so many parts of this job. I think getting to know my patrons and what they like to read and surprising them with a new book that I have chosen for them without them having to ask me for it is my favorite.” 

The Bookmobile program is a great way to promote the library system and provide literacy and books to the Museum. A lot of people don’t know how much the local libraries have to offer by way of books and media, yes, but also for programming, activities, and classes. The weekly visit from the Bookmobile is one of the features at the Children’s Museum of Southern Minnesota which people plan their visits around. Many families come for story time and the opportunity to go out to the mobile bus. The librarian aboard can help families make selections. 

“We go to the library regularly, too,” shared one parent, “but there’s something magical for the kids about the library on wheels.” 

During Covid, that magic came to a literal halt. Because Hunt works as a “regular” librarian when she’s not on the bus, she didn’t lose her job, but she did miss her people. 

“Miss Michelle, the Children’s Librarian, and I came up with a way to stay connected with kids. We called it The Elephant and Piggie Road Show. Daycare providers scheduled a time with us, and we took the Bookmobile to their center or home. We stood in front of the bus an appropriate distance away and acted out the Elephant and Piggie books, complete with costumes. The kids loved it. We did too.” 

Storytime with the Mankato Library Bookmobile at the Children's Museum of Southern Minnesota

HOW DOES IT WORK?

The Bookmobile program offers materials for checkout, including books, audiobooks, videos, and magazines, with loan periods of two weeks. Renewals are available twice, and notices are sent out when books are six days overdue. Materials may be returned to any public library in Southern Minnesota.

If you ever see the Bookmobile parked anywhere, you are welcome to come on. If you have a library card from a library other than North Mankato Taylor Library and have never used that library, the card can be used on the Bookmobile. All materials can be returned to any local library and will find their way back to the Bookmobile.

Overall, the Bookmobile program is a wonderful resource for rural areas and local events. It provides access to literature and promotes literacy in areas where it may not be readily available. If you are interested in requesting a stop or have any questions about the Bookmobile program, please contact the North Mankato Taylor Library at 507-345-5120.

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