So, you might already know that it’s National Library Week. You might even know that yesterday was National Library Workers Day (time to hug your favorite library employee – but, please ask first). But did you know that today, April 11th, is National Bookmobile Day? This recognition was recently initiated (2010) to celebrate the unique role of bookmobiles and direct-delivery outreach services in fulfilling the mission of libraries. Bookmobiles have been an integral aspect of library service for over 100 years (the first one started in 1905 by Mary Lemist Titcomb in Washington County, Maryland). They have delivered information, technology, and resources for life-long learning to Americans of all walks of life. In some parts of the country bookmobiles provides outreach to the entire community, but in other places the services are limited to a specific population (the elderly or home-bound, or preschoolers and their caretakers). One thing is for sure, in all these places, the people who regularly board bookmobiles, can’t wait for the vehicle to return again and whole-heatedly appreciate the services they receive.
Fontana Regional Library’s Reading Rover has been traveling the roads of Jackson, Macon and Swain Counties (including the Qualla Boundary) since 1999. It is a cooperative project with Smart Start/Region A Partnership for Children and serves preschoolers and child care providers with story times, teacher and parent workshops, teaching aids and parenting and family resources.
To get an idea of what this rolling library can accomplish in one year traveling to 30 child care centers, check out these numbers:
- 547 storytime programs presented
- 6086 children received a Rover storytime
- 10,526 library materials checked out
So who is providing all these services? Well, all this is done by mainly three library employees: Peggy Gibby, Carol Grise and Joan Lackey. In most cases, Peggy reads stories to preschoolers and leads them in learning songs/rhymes and Joan, the Rover driver, assists teachers in selecting library materials for their classrooms. Meanwhile, Carol offers training classes to childcare teachers, giving tips on selecting age-appropriate books for the classroom and offering assistance in using the variety of Rover puppets, storytelling kits and books for teaching pre-reading skills.
While the services to these preschoolers, caretakers and parents are seen as vital to our community, they is costly. Fontana Regional Library budgets approximately $95,000 per fiscal year to keep the Rover on the road. Unfortunately, many of the grants that have helped sustain the Rover in past have either lowered their funding or completely dried up during these hard economic times.
As I mentioned above, the services offered by the Reading Rover are vital to preschoolers and their parents, but in truth, these services are vital to everyone. A child who enters the school with preliteracy skills, is a child prepared to succeed in school and, eventually, in life.
If you’re wondering what you can do to help, well there a couple things you can do. First of all, please be a vocal advocate for the Reading Rover. That’s right, just talk to your friends, neighbors, family members, maybe even an elected official, about the importance of the Reading Rover and its services to our community. Maybe a few of your friends will, in turn, also advocate for the Rover, and then a couple their friends, and then…you get the picture. Secondly, of course, you can figuratively “feed Rover” with a financial contribution. If this is an option for you, please download this brochure/donation form and send in your tax deductible contribution to this worthy cause.