Rolling With the Punches
Photos courtesy of Rolling Hills Library
LDV Builds Bookmobile for Rolling Hills Library
Rolling Hills Library was established in 1961 as a two-county library system based in St. Joseph, Missouri. Throughout their history, the library has offered outreach services and is no stranger to trying different modes of transportation with their bookmobile. At one point, they delivered books to surrounding areas via an outfitted station wagon knows as the “Book Buggy.”
However, outreach services with their bookmobile were put on hold in the ‘80s due to budget cuts. In 2013, a used Blue Bird bus was purchased to test if reinstating bookmobile services was a viable option. When it was met with overwhelming enthusiasm, especially from the rural areas of their district, they knew they needed to permanently bring this service back. However, their aging Blue Bird bookmobile was plagued with issues.
Realizing they needed a more reliable mode of transportation, Rolling Hills began looking at different vehicle builders to see who the best fit would be. The library received proposals from multiple custom vehicle manufacturers and felt LDV best understood the design and features they wanted while also suggesting features they hadn’t considered. After determining LDV was the right builder for them, Library Director Michelle Mears and her staff started collaborating on designing and building a new bookmobile.
“One of the things that is hard to grasp at first is that a bookmobile is not like any other vehicle. It is the sum of many different parts and it’s not the same as just going to a dealership and buying a new car. We appreciate LDV’s commitment to us as a customer and the assistance they provided before, during, and after delivery,” explained Michelle Mears.
While Rolling Hills wanted to ensure their new bookmobile was easy to drive, they also had some must-have features that needed to be included. One of these was using a ramp instead of a lift to provide accessibility to patrons. Another important element they wanted to incorporate was two entry doors. This was to create a natural in and out for the vehicle, especially when used for school visits with many people boarding and leaving the vehicle. For the rest of the interior, they wanted to load the space with as many shelves as possible.
Rolling Hills’ commitment to their community also extends to those in senior care centers and rural schools that may not have access to the materials other larger schools may have. However due to COVID, senior center visits eventually evolved into personalized book deliveries more than typical bus visits. The bookmobile stops at public and private schools while also making community stops at least once or twice a month.
“Our two-county library system has two main population hubs where we have branches. The rest are very small towns and rural schools. The bookmobile has given us a way to reach these populations and communicate our value as a library by showing what their tax dollars have made possible,” said Mears.
During the summer, Rolling Hills was able to host a few visits with the doors open, although they have to limit the number of patrons on the vehicle. The bookmobile has also become a delivery service of sorts, with the vehicle delivering crates of books to schools and teachers to bring into the classrooms. With some schools opting to forgo typical bookmobile visits, this has proved to be an invaluable service for classrooms. Rolling Hills’ bookmobile has also appeared in front of the community several times by participating in a number of Touch-A-Truck events.
Photos courtesy of Rolling Hills Library
While the pandemic has changed library outreach programs all over the country, Rolling Hills is pleased with how the bookmobile has adapted to this new normal. Although crowds aren’t allowed on the bookmobile like before, they are still able to bring literature to their community and show why bookmobiles are still a vital part of outreach.
“Seeing the bookmobile out and about in the community during this time helps boost people’s spirits. Our outreach staff has delivered crates of books to schools and teachers to bring into the classrooms. They also make book deliveries to senior care centers and peoples’ homes using our other library vehicles, so everyone has been actively working,” described Mears.
Rolling Hills has also worked to ensure they pick up additional stops to ensure their community receives vital books and materials for learning and enjoyment. Staff from the library also fill the “little libraries” around their community, especially now. These provide material exchanges free of charge and are a great COVID solution for libraries and outreach programs who are still unable to have the public visit.
Rolling Hills is a great example of an outreach vehicle providing literature to their surrounding communities while navigating the pandemic safely. You can learn more about their vehicle and other LDV-built bookmobiles by visiting our website today.