I am thrilled and honored that my colleague Ed Miller, aka The Bookmobile Guy, has graciously written a post in honor of National Bookmobile Day and permitted me to host his words on my blog. Our Special Services team (which includes Ed and Becky, pictured above. Laura and Lydia are part of the team, as well) provides fantastic outreach services to the greater Lancaster County community. Vintage photos of the Bookmobile are currently featured on our Web site, where you can also find links to more information about the Special Services team.
And now, without further ado, Ed in his own words-
This morning someone I know passed along a job description for “Associate Animal Editor” for the web juggernaut known as Buzzfeed. The qualifications included “must be into adorable sloths and hedgehogs.” Some job competitions call for a special kind of passion to set you apart from the crowd, and I can only imagine the lengths a winning candidate and a winning sloth and hedgehog fanatic might go to prove their worthiness to command the attention of millions of sets of eyes. They might do something crazy.
I felt a little that way 13 years ago when I scored an interview to drive and manage a bookmobile. Even though I had never been on a bookmobile before or even seen one, I just knew I wanted to drive one. Who wouldn’t? Much to my surprise, there was not a waiting list of applicants eager to drive a bookmobile, so I made off with the prize and I didn’t even have to work as a volunteer for a year or two to get my foot in the door. And what a prize it has been.
When I took the job, one of my more judgmental uncles needled me about my lack of ambition, asking when I would get a “real” job. I’m sure he thought I was driving an ice cream truck or something akin to it. From afar it’s all fun and games on the bookmobile. Well, it is up close too, but let me just suggest to you that there is more going on here than meets the eye. Over the years, I’ve had crash courses in everything from reading to large groups of 3-4 year olds (more difficult than it appears) to networking with migrant workers, to the basics of diesel mechanics and wireless technology. Most of the things that happen in a library building now happen on bookmobiles too. It’s just that they happen on the fly.
If I had to identify one quality that a good bookmobiler must have it would be empathy. When a person steps (or rolls) on to the bookmobile, they need to know that we care about what they care about. You are interested in bee-keeping? By coincidence I just purchased a new manual. You are interested in raising chickens? Don’t be surprised when next month you discover yet another book about raising domestic fowl on the shelf. You forget to order the next book in the series of biographies about the presidents? You might be surprised that I noticed and set it aside for you. Going vegan or gluten free? I’m way ahead of you. Looking for a light romance? I know just the thing. Or, maybe you just need a someone to chat with. I’ll do that too, and if you need to sit in my chair, please make yourself at home.
I’ve met enough other bookmobilers to know that we like to cultivate our image as library outsiders, often butting our heads against rules and procedures and the formal bureaucratic structures that libraries seem to be fond of. We don’t have time for endless committee meetings (literally) and we aren’t shy about our preference to be out here in a parking lot doing our thing over sitting behind a desk somewhere. But don’t let the flannel shirts, heavy sweaters and steel-toed boots fool you. Bookmobilers are professionals with a lot of smarts and even more heart.
Happy National Bookmbile Day!