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Imagine The Possibilities

Library System Launches New Bookmobile

While many municipalities have parked their bookmobiles, Lancaster County has rolled out a brand-new model. The Library System of Lancaster County held an appreciation ceremony on April 8 at the Manheim Township Public Library for donors who contributed to the purchase of Bookmobile: The Possibility Machine.

"It's great to see we're still serving," commented Terry Kauffman, a former board member who relied on the Bookmobile for reading material while growing up in a rural community.

The previous Bookmobile had been in operation for 17 years, and it was ready for retirement. The new vehicle has increased efficiency, both in service and in fuel, and it is expected to be more reliable, with less downtime and maintenance costs. While the new Bookmobile is smaller than its predecessor, the interior has been configured to maximize space. The top half of each wall is lined with permanent shelving, and the lower half contains frames where book carts can be locked into place.

"This gives us more flexibility," said outreach librarian Meredith Hendrix. She noted that with a modular system, she and her Bookmobile cohort, special services manager Ed Miller, can move carts of books rather than moving each volume individually. The carts can also be taken into facilities served by the Bookmobile.

Hendrix related the story of a visit to Conestoga View during the Bookmobile's first week in service. Typically, only one woman visited the previous Bookmobile, and even then, she had to wait outside because it was not easily accessible. During the latest visit, however, Hendrix and Miller took book carts inside the building, and five people were able to browse and check out reading materials.

The new Bookmobile is designed for accessibility. It has a heating and cooling system to keep visitors and staff members comfortable. A motorized step will make moving book carts and welcoming disabled patrons much easier. The aisle is now wide enough for wheelchair users to comfortably examine the collection.

"For some people, this is the first time they can be at eye level with the books," Hendrix commented.

The Possibility Machine was purchased and outfitted to the tune of $165,000, a sum that was raised through a yearlong capital campaign spearheaded by library system executive director Bonnie Young. The Bookmobile is titled to Lancaster County and leased through Enterprise. County Commissioner Dennis Stuckey noted that the Bookmobile is a tangible example of what happens when public and private entities work together for the good of the community.

During the ceremony, Miller addressed the assembled guests. After showing a time-lapse video of a day in the retired Bookmobile, Miller remarked that the work he does can be very gratifying. "We are instilling a thirst for knowledge," he said.

Through visits to Headstart classrooms and retirement centers, as well as stops at Amish schools and after-school programs, the Bookmobile serves people with a vast spectrum of ages and interests. For early learners, Bookmobile visits include a story and an activity. With the mobile carts, the students can stay in their classrooms, which Miller asserted are better places for learning, and therefore have more time for the program. At retirement communities and assisted living facilities, the Bookmobile serves a different yet equally important purpose.

"This part of our work is about supporting quality of life," he said. "To some, books are life. Access (to books of interest) has a profound impact on wellbeing."

The Books on the Go supporters club has been created to offset the ongoing costs of operating The Possibility Machine. Folks may visit http://lancasterlibraries.org/books-on-the-go/ to learn more or to donate.

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