Bookmobile brings world to Pawtucket’s streets

Bookmobile brings world to Pawtucket’s streets

Pawtucket Public Library Bookmobile clerks Cassandra Rainey, left, and Dianna Jackson go through the mobile library’s offerings. (Breeze photos by Nancy Kirsch)
Six new stops added for this summer

PAWTUCKET – The bright red Pawtucket Bookmobile, the state’s only full-time, regularly scheduled bookmobile, is on the move again this summer.

By adding six stops to its regular summer schedule, Pawtucket Public Library staffers are choosing to go where the children are, says Assistant Director Christine Jeffers.

“We wanted to focus on keeping kids reading this summer to avoid the ‘summer slide’ (of not reading), which can be cumulative and can have an effect on reading success,” she told The Valley Breeze.

The new sites are:

• Samuel Slater Junior High School (10-10:30 a.m.) and Agnes Little Elementary School (10:45-11:30 a.m.), on Wednesdays.

• And Blackstone Valley Community Action Program Community Center and Payne Park (1:15-1:45 p.m.), Veterans Park playground (2-2:30 p.m.), Varieur School playground (2:45-3:15 p.m.), and the Boys & Girls Club of Pawtucket (3:30-4 p.m.), on Thursdays.

The sites were chosen through partnerships with Pawtucket’s Parks and Recreation Department, the Boys & Girls Club, Cunningham Elementary School’s Child Opportunity Zone (COZ) program (held this summer at Slater), and Agnes Little Elementary School’s COZ program. BVCAP is helping get library cards to children who need them, said Jeffers.

A constant presence in Pawtucket since 1968, the Pawtucket Bookmobile now stocks between 2,500 and 3,000 items at any time, while about 118,000 items, including print books, audiovisual materials, and e-books, are in the library itself, said Jeffers. Last year, 195,119 items were checked out from the library. She said about 10 percent of the library’s circulation happens at the mobile library, which proves how important reading is to city residents, not all of whom can visit the library. Though the majority of books come from the library’s collection, she said, the library also leases some of the latest and best adult fiction so the Bookmobile has new books to offer every month.

Last Thursday afternoon, The Breeze visited the bookmobile at Payne Park, where clerk Cassandra Rainey said that children’s librarians from the Pawtucket Public Library promoted summer reading programs and the Bookmobile at city schools in the spring. The Bookmobile is like a mini library, and staffers see many regular patrons, she says.

Bookmobile clerk Dianna Jackson said that as a parent, she especially enjoys welcoming children and seeing which books they select. She and her family were regular library patrons even before she worked there, and using the library and its mobile delivery service makes financial sense, she said.

Phoebe Medeiros, of Pawtucket, and her grandson, Davien Vicente, 6, of Tampa, Fla., climbed aboard the Bookmobile last Thursday to return a library book.

“I have three grandchildren; when they’re here (in Pawtucket, visiting for the summer), I make sure they get their library cards to keep up their reading,” Medeiros, a Cunningham Elementary School employee, says, before she and Jackson exchange school news.

While Davien scans the shelves, Medeiros explains that he can already read some words, though he won’t start kindergarten until this fall.

So in this internet age, do libraries or bookmobiles still have value?

Absolutely, insists Jeffers, who says that one in four households in the U.S. lacks internet access, and the library levels the playing field for everyone.

“We don’t have to guess how much our patrons need us; they show us every day,” she says.

Last year, patrons accessed the internet 63,000 times at the library, and every day people are surprised to discover that they can download e-books for free from the library system, said Jeffers. The library also offers mobile print service so people can print to a library printer directly from their phone, laptop or computer.

The library, says Jeffers, is still doing what it’s always done, which is to provide free access to information, but methods have changed.

“In today’s digital world, it’s more important than ever to have free access to information to respond to the needs of users in the format that is right for them. As technology changes, so does the library. I expect (we’ll) be doing that for a long time,” said Jeffers, who has worked for the library for more than 30 years.

A generation ago, Bookmobile clerks recorded patron information with paper and pen. The Bookmobile’s technology, now on its third iteration, provides real time, wireless information. With wireless-connected laptops, clerks connect to the library database to circulate and reserve books, check a patron’s record, and more.

The Pawtucket Public Library, which receives funding from the city of Pawtucket, the state of Rhode Island, overdue fees, donations and interest from endowment funds, was scheduled to receive approximately $25,000 more in state funding under Gov. Gina Raimondo’s proposed 2018 budget than it received last year, says Susan Reed, library director.

Since the General Assembly adjourned, however, without approving fiscal year 2018’s state budget, the state will have to operate within last year’s budget constraints unless the General Assembly is called back into session to approve a new budget. If the budget isn’t approved, the library will reduce the number of materials it purchases or cut back on outside programming to meet budget constraints.

The Bookmobile, which has no separate line item in the budget, is secure, says Reed. As a replacement for the library’s branch locations, the Bookmobile works for the community, she said.

As for the future, Jeffers hopes the Bookmobile will provide internet access for patrons. In the meantime, she says, “I think that as long as there are people wanting to read, there will be a Bookmobile.”

The full Bookmobile schedule is available at www.pawtucketlibrary.org, which also includes a link to the Bookmobile’s nearly 50-year history.


The library’s website offers a history of the Pawtucket Bookmobile.