What is absolutely free, permits you travel to far off exotic locations, helps you to learn about the latest scientific and medical discoveries, teaches you a new language, or just provides untold hours of entertainment, knowledge, enjoyment and leisure? The answer is the Montgomery County Bookmobile.
This traveling library is an extension of the Montgomery County-Norristown Public Library, and is, in fact, a full-service library available for use by all Montgomery County residents free of charge.
The bookmobile services all the municipalities within the county that do not have a brick-and-mortar library of their own, and it makes regularly scheduled stops every two weeks at various locations throughout the county—making it convenient and accessible for all residents.
On a recent Saturday morning, the bookmobile rolled into the Ralph’s Corner Shopping Center and set up shop in an open area of the parking lot.
Patrons look forward to the visit, and many avid readers request books that will be waiting for them on board when they arrive.
Library clerk Eileen McGan was busy checking out books and greeting library patrons. McGan knows many of the visitors by name because they regularly take advantage of the bookmobile's offerings.
She noted that she prefers the bookmobile to the main library in Norristown, where she has also worked.
“I’ve worked on the bookmobile for four years. I love books, and I like to discuss them with other people,” she said. “The people that come in are true readers and are really interested in reading. It’s nice because we have regulars."
Joe Hood is the driver, and he also mans the front of the mobile library where he greets visitors by name.
It is quite apparent that both he and his co-worker love their work and believe in the program.
“I’ve been driving for about 20 years, and it is a really good program going out to the neighborhoods that don’t have a library. Really good people use the bookmobile, and I really like it,” he said.
The bookmobile has the ability to access books from any library within the Montgomery County Library System for its patrons. This places more than 600,000 pieces of library material at the disposal of county residents.
The inter-library delivery service goes out to every library in the system each day to procure the books and library materials that have been requested and to put books back in circulation that have been returned.
In addition to books for both children and adults, the roving library stocks magazines, audio books, a variety of music CDs, and movies.
Caroline Erdman, of Lansdale, was visiting the Bookmobile, and she noted that she has been using the library since 2003.
“I think it is a fabulous idea. I am not in Lansdale borough, so I had to get a county library card,” she said.
“They are very obliging and helpful. If they can’t find something, they will get it for me. It is very convenient,” she said.
The program has been very successful with many regulars—especially at certain stops within the county. But, Hood noted that with budget constraints, there have been some changes.
“They have had to cut back on the materials budget, and they haven’t been able to buy as many magazines or books,” he said.
Yet the Bookmobile continues to be a vibrant, much loved, and integral part of many communities, bringing the written word to those that may otherwise be unable to afford or access it.
For more information about the bookmobile, to get information about signing up for a library card, and for regularly scheduled stops, please refer to the website at mnl.mclinc.org/Bookmobile/IndexBM.html.