Mobile library expands WRL's reach

sbirkenmeyer@vagazette.com

The local library has long served as a central hub for information and entertainment, with its myriad of books, films and other resources opening up a world of possibilities. But for members of the community who can’t travel or live too far away, a trip to the library becomes a daunting task.

The Williamsburg Regional Library aims to address that with its Mobile Library Services outreach program.

“I love the idea that I can get books and I don’t have to go to the library all the way downtown,” Butch Painter said.

Painter visited the mobile library Nov. 21, when the truck drove to the Grove area of James City County. He said he’s been taking advantage of the program for a decade.

“They have a really good selection all the time,” he said, adding that requests for other items are usually fulfilled within two weeks. “It gives us the ability to still be able to use your mind without using your legs.”

The library launched the program in 1978; Eletha Davis has served as its mobile library services manager for more than 30 years.

“I am so thankful. I have one of the best jobs ever,” she said. “I enjoy meeting the new people. I really love working with communities.”

Davis said she’s seen adult mobile library guests turn into grandparents and great-grandparents who bring their families.

The program features four trucks; two drive out to various neighborhoods and two visit homebound individuals and adult care centers, such as Patriots Colony and Envoy of Williamsburg. They also visit schools and camps. The trucks include computers and free public wi-fi as well.

A world of possibilities

The trucks feature their own dedicated selection of books, magazines and DVDs, and librarians pull additional offerings from the main library based on what they think people might enjoy. Since space is more limited, newer works are generally favored; items eventually transition to the Williamsburg or James City County libraries.

“We decide based on need,” Davis said. The mobile librarians also take requests for books or DVDs, which extends to ordering copies on Amazon if the library doesn’t possess any.

“I request a movie, she makes sure I get it,” said Jessica Dale, who lives in the Country Village neighborhood of Grove and visited the Windy Hill stop Tuesday. “It’s awesome.”

Her two sons use the mobile library to check out books for school projects and reports.

“We’ve been a lot over the summer,” Dale said.

Her children also use it to take advantage of the library’s summer reading program.

“I like that we get interesting things,” said Dale’s 11-year-old son, John. He added that he appreciates the selection of free movies.

Turnout varies, and Nov. 21 saw 11 visitors inside the mobile library at Windy Hill, as Thanksgiving break loomed near. The previous visit drew 27 visitors. Davis is grateful for any opportunity to help people connect with the library.

“Reading is power. You can make better decisions; you stay informed,” she said. “It’s so important to be able to read.”

Davis recalled battling heart problems in her youth, which rendered her unable to run and play with other children. But she found adventure in other forms.

“I just gravitated toward books,” she said.

Painter said children, often more preoccupied with smartphones and Netflix than the world of books, benefit from easier access to books, which the mobile library provides.

“They get up here and they actually get to use their minds a little bit,” he said. “The world would be a bad place without books.”

Mobile Library Services

For more information on the Williamsburg Regional Library’s Mobile Library Services, including a schedules of stops, visit wrl.org/wrl-comes-to-you or call 259-4040.

Birkenmeyer can be reached by phone at 757-790-3029.

Copyright © 2017, The Virginia Gazette
37°