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Outreach + Mobile Library Services

The Outreach Department at HCPL provides a variety of services to residents outside the library, particularly those facing physical, economic, social, geographic or other barriers to accessing library services. The most recognizable part of the Outreach Department is Mobile Library Service (formerly Bookmobile). Outreach services include early literacy opportunities for children, delivering library materials and programs to residents in retirement communities, representing HCPL at community events, and fostering community partnerships.

Bookmobile History

The "Sprinter" Years

  • January 2013 – Present
  • 2012 3500 Sprinter, Sprinter Cargo Van Extra Long Mercedes-Benz
  • Cost: $86,033
  • Length: 24 feet 2 inches
  • Height: 9 feet 9 inches
  • Engine: 3.0 V6 Turbo Diesel Engine
  • Outfitted with ability to carry 8 ACORE materials carts and 1 computer service cart
  • Tommy Gate Lift
  • Staffing Complement: Three full-time employees and one part-time employee

When the time came to replace the previous Bookmobile, staff took the opportunity to re-evaluate the Mobile Library Service model as a whole. Statistics showed that the median age of Henrico County's senior population was increasing from the lower seventies to the eighties and staff observed that many in wheelchairs and walkers did not come out to visit due to the steep steps of the bus. Another factor restricting growth was the schedule — the Bookmobile operated on a bi-weekly rotation that offered little flexibility for adding new stops. The recession in 2009 and the resulting impact on the library's budget made clear the importance of a cost-effective vehicle. By choosing a less expensive, more efficient vehicle and changing the service model, staff were able to improve service and substantially cut operating costs.

With the new vehicle being outfitted with a hydraulic lift, the Mobile Library Service brings four to six carts of materials into each facility they visit. Since starting this new lobby-stop style service to senior facilities in January 2013, circulation and new library card registrations have doubled. Staff have also developed early literacy storytime programs that are presented at area child care centers, with a focus on underserved populations.

The "Bluebird" Years

  • May 1999 – November 2012
  • 1999 Bluebird custom Bookmobile Manufactured by Ohio Bus Inc., Canton, Ohio
  • Cost:$185,000
  • Length: 31 feet 6 inches
  • Rear Mounted Caterpillar Diesel Engine, Onan generator, automatic transmission, air brakes, power steering and two roof mounted air conditioners
  • Staffing Complement: Three full-time employees and one part-time employee
This Bookmobile was designed to emphasize its primary role as a facilitator of reading readiness for children and provider of materials focusing on current topics and popular titles for adults. A highlight of the vehicle's design was a children's area, which allowed for up to twenty-five preschoolers to come aboard and enjoy storytimes presented by the Bookmobile staff. Improved shelving enabled the Bookmobile to carry more books, magazines, and other materials than ever before. In addition, the staff workspace housed an electronically networked system of computers and telephones that kept the Bookmobile in direct contact with the Library's automated catalog and Internet presence.

The "Thomas" Years

  • September 1987 – April 1999
  • 1986 Thomas custom bookmobile built by Thomas Built Buses/High Point, North Carolina
  • Cost $95,000
  • Length: 31 feet 9 inches
  • Height: 11 feet 6 inches
  • Rear Mounted Caterpillar Diesel Engine, Onan generator, automatic transmission, air brakes, power steering and two roof mounted air conditioners
  • Staffing Complement: Three full-time employees and one part-time employee
The Bookmobile's service initially targeted neighborhoods, but as the library system expanded, adding more branches, the Bookmobile's mission evolved and changed as well. With the addition of a larger vehicle, child care centers, nursing homes and subsidized housing became the focus of service. Community Outreach events were added to its schedule, including neighborhood festivals, mall activities and school visits. Staff worked hard to build a collection and develop programs that supported the Bookmobile's two-fold mission of reading readiness for children and recreational reading for adults and seniors.

The "Gerty" Years

  • June 1977 – September 1987
  • 1975 Gerstenslager custom Bookmobile built by Gerstenslager Company in Ohio
  • Cost:$35,000 used
  • Length: 28 feet
  • Gas front engine, Onan generator, automatic transmission
  • Staffing Complement: One full-time employee and one Clerk/Driver

On June 6, 1977, Henrico County Public Library launched a new and exciting service that brought books and people together outside of the traditional bricks-and-mortar setting. The Bookmobile rolled out of the Fairfield Library parking lot and into the lives of thousands throughout the county, building community ties that endure to this day.

"Gerty" as we affectionately call the Gerstenslager was originally painted yellow. In the early Eighties the vehicle was repainted white with a magenta and gold stripe and an eye catching design of book pages created by the library's graphic artist.

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