Bookin’ it: Bridging the information gap with the TNRD Bookmobile

Bookmobiles have been around North America for quite a long time. Horse drawn libraries appeared in the late 1800s, and the first motorized version arrived in the 1920s. The Thompson-Nicola Regional District (TNRD) Bookmobile service began in 1974, and has (with the occasional hiccup) been on the road with a variety of vehicles ever since.

The TNRD Bookmobile travels throughout the 45,000 square kilometers the district encompasses, stopping for the most part in smaller rural communities that have no local library. As with many rural libraries, the Bookmobile has become a part of the communities it serves. Our staff know most patrons by name, as well as what they like to read, watch, or listen to. As many of our patrons lack reliable/affordable internet, we also submit quite a few holds on their behalf.

The Bookmobile is where people come to check out books, DVDs, and other items, but it is also a meeting place. It’s a place where folks come together to visit, to exchange news, sometimes to bicker, and to learn. Some neighbours only see each other when they meet up at the Bookmobile; others find that they like to come to connect to the community at large. As far as we know, the TNRD Bookmobile is the only one currently operating in British Columbia. The price of a Bookmobile is not cheap, but we firmly believe the benefits far outweigh the costs.

Current Bookmobile: 2000 Bluebird Bus. Photo credit: Mike Brown.

Current Bookmobile: 2000 Bluebird Bus. Photo credit: Mike Brown.

Our current vehicle is a 35-foot-long 2000 Bluebird bus that was purchased new, fitted out in Ohio, and delivered in 2001. It has traveled well over 400,000 kilometers, up and down some pretty steep hills, through every kind of weather imaginable, and always at the maximum weight allowed. It is a workhorse, but at almost 17 years old our Bookmobile is due for replacement, as reliability and finding parts for it are rapidly becoming major issues.

Thankfully, the TNRD Board of Directors approved funding for a new vehicle, and after two years of planning a new Bookmobile will be delivered early next year. The new vehicle is being built in Surrey, BC, by Intercontinental Truck Body, and will inaugurate a new era for our service.

While our current Bookmobile bus is shaped like a 20-foot hallway, our new Bookmobile will be an International truck chassis with a custom-built body. It will have slides (or “pop outs”) on both sides and the rear of the vehicle, giving us much more room on the inside. We will be able to do indoor programming for the first time ever, as until now all programming had to be done during the summer when we could be outside. We are really looking forward to expanding (literally!) our service model.

New TNRD Bookmobile under construction. Photo credit: Mike Brown.

New TNRD Bookmobile under construction. Photo credit: Mike Brown.

The TNRD Bookmobile is an integral part of our library system, bridging the gap between rural patrons and the larger centers. It is also a popular option, as it is the third largest of our 14 branches in terms of circulation per open hour. Patrons are able to draw from the system collection as a whole, and also from the knowledge and experience of all our staff throughout the TNRD library system.

The Bookmobile extends the footprint of the library system outward, and in the coming months we hope to utilize our new Bookmobile to grow our current 22 stops to include even more areas of the region in need of library service.

If you have any questions or comments about the TNRD Bookmobile library service, feel free to email me at [email protected].

> Mike Brown is the Branch Head of the Thompson-Nicola Regional District’s Bookmobile.