Two of my favorite things: kids and kid lit. What a dream job!
I started in January of 2017, but we happened to have one of the most extreme Idaho winters in history. My kiddos were excited to have so many snow days, but I was anxious to get out on the bus and start making a difference.
I worked on behind the scenes stuff while I waited for safe driving conditions. This consisted of processing new books and donations, repairing books, and withdrawing books beyond repair. One of my favorite things was reading personal notes on the end pages of donated books. These books were special to the initial reader and would be special once again to young patrons who checked them out.
The purpose of the bookmobile was to offer children access to books and get them excited about reading. Many of these kids did not own books or were unable to visit a library. We did not issue library cards or require fines for late or damaged books. We just wanted them to read!
We distributed snacks, hats and mittens, and backpacks with school supplies. We also ran a reading incentive program in the winter, facilitated STEM activities in the summer, and participated in fun events like Touch a Truck and Trunk or Treat.
Patrons referred to the bookmobile as THE BUS, but we had a more personal name for him. The kids were thrilled when Thomas received his monster makeover, which would not have been possible without a generous grant from the Greater Boise Area Rotary Foundation.
Working on the bookmobile was a perfect fit for me because I only read kid lit! The kids loved that I was able to honestly recommend a wide range of picture books, chapter books, middle grade, and YA novels. We also compiled a wishlist. I searched for requested titles in our office. We would try to purchase them with our budget if we didn’t have them, or if we needed more copies of a popular title. Sometimes I would bring personal books from home that my kids had already read a bazillion times.
My kids were able to visit me every week on the bookmobile because one of the stops was near our house. Their friends thought it was pretty cool that their mom drove the big blue bus.
The most rewarding aspect of this job was getting to know the kids. We were greeted with huge smiles every time we pulled up to a stop. Sometimes the kids would even jump for joy on the sidewalk as soon as they saw Thomas. The kids told me jokes, talked about school, and shared intimate stories about their lives.
One of the most difficult parts of this job was when children moved away. A girl wrote her name on a piece of paper and gave it to me so I would “always remember” her. Kids hugged me, drew me pictures, and even gifted me their favorite stuffed animals.
It was even more difficult when it was my turn to move. My husband accepted an excellent job opportunity in Seattle, so I had to say goodbye to Thomas and the kids. I cried on my last day. Several times.
The library staff threw me a little going away party.
Lucky for me some of my co-workers used to live in the Seattle area. They recommended places to explore with my family. I already couldn’t wait to visit the Seattle Public Library.
At the end of the party, our library director told me that I changed these kids’ lives and they would remember me.
I hope she’s right.
Did you visit a bookmobile when you were a child? Do you have a bookmobile in your community? I’d love to hear about it!
Learn more about the Bells for Books mobile literacy program!