On the road again

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By Neila Schuhmann

Though it doesn't carry ice-cold confections and play a catchy jingle, it has the same ability to deliver smiles as its distant cousin, the ice cream truck.

Yet, the bookmobile's patrons are both young and old.

Taylor County just received a new bookmobile. According to Public Library Director Elaine Munday, the Library Board applied for a grant to fund a new bookmobile in September. The Board was notified in December that the County would receive one of 22 bookmobiles available.

The grant, administered by the Kentucky Department of Libraries and Archives, provided $25,000 toward the cost of the new bookmobile. The County, through the library tax, had to match the grant.

The old bookmobile was a 1990 model and had been on loan to the County since that same year from the Kentucky Department of Libraries and Archives in Frankfort. It was returned to the Department.

"The old one had to be started and warmed up for 30 minutes before she could go out in it. It had a generator," Munday said. "This one does not have a generator."

Munday said library staff members are hoping to get better gas mileage with the new bookmobile.

Driver Beverly England says it's too soon to tell if the mileage will be better.

"It's my first week out," England said on Wednesday, "So, until I've had it on the road for a week, we won't really know."

Munday said that instead of detailing the bookmobile with bright, colorful characters like some counties do, the Board chose to keep the graphics simple, just to identify it. Swafford Signs did the detailing work for $475.

"When we got it, it was solid white," Munday said.

The choice to keep the graphics simple was out of respect for the bookmobile's older patrons, who represent a large portion of the service.

"She goes to a lot of shut-ins," Munday said. "She gets interested in them."

Munday said that England talks to the elderly patrons and learns what types of books they enjoy.

"There's so many lonely people out there," Munday said. "It may be a situation where she's the only person they see all week."

For England, who started driving the bookmobile in 2001, it's a job she says she loves.

"The visit is as much as the books," England said. "It gives you insight that, inside yourself, you never get old."

England speaks fondly of her patrons and the laughs she shares with them. One in particular, JoAnn Caffee, has been using the bookmobile service for about nine years.

A resident at Jackson Tower, Caffee has a heart condition and said she isn't supposed to go outside if the weather's bad.

"Beverly knows what we all like to read and she delivers them to our door," Caffee said. "Beverly gets to know you."

Caffee says she loves to read and reads "lots and lots" of books.

Though the new bookmobile appears smaller from the outside, according to Munday, it holds about the same number of books.

England credits library employee Debbie Parson for her work on the grant to purchase the new bookmobile.

"She put a lot of work into conveying the need," England said, adding that the library also has a "great" board of directors.

"It's a good job. I can't believe I get paid to do this."

- Social Writer Neila Schuhmann can be reached at 465-8111 Ext. 224 or by e-mail at cknj@cknj.com. Comment on this story at cknj@cknj.com.