THE BOOKMOBILE, operated by the Martins Ferry Library System, came to the end of the road this week.
Yvonne Myers, library director, said the last run for the bookmobile in Belmont County was Wednesday, and she explained how increased costs, the condition of the vehicle, decreased funding and the decreased use contributed to its discontinuation.
The present bookmobile is more than 20 years old, and library officials cannot afford to replace it. Then, too, there are increased costs in its operation.
T-L Photo/MIKE PALMER
THE BOOKMOBILE, operated by the Martins Ferry Public Library throughout Belmont County, made its last run Wednesday. Increased costs, decreased usage and the condition of the vehicle are some of the reasons it is no longer being operated. Standing beside the bookmobile are Mike Crecion, who had been the bookmobile driver, and Christy Edgar, library assistant, and both have been reassigned to other duties.
"We're almost through the gas allowance for the year," she said, before indicating if there is a positive change in the future regarding the budget, the bookmobile may be replaced with something like a van.
Myers went on to explain that library officials sent out a survey and a letter about the bookmobile and are awaiting a response.
She noted there's a possibility that one day a week, those with the highest need can receive the services now provided by the bookmobile. "We're not totally eliminating the outreach - it's going to be downgraded," she said.
Libraries in recent years have been plagued by funding decreases, and Myers said the Ferry library system experienced another 6 percent decrease this year and is not allowed to get any overage now. She added while the library's income went down, costs increased such as book prices and the cost of utilities in addition to the increase in the minimum wage.
Aside from financial concerns, the number of bookmobile stops decreased. Noting most of the current stops are at senior citizens' centers and nursing homes, Myers said fewer people are living by themselves today and most of them drive so they go to the libraries.
In recent times, the bookmobile has been going out two days a week with about nine stops a day. Belmont County was divided into fourths, and the library director said this made it more efficient than when gasoline was cheap.
There has been a decrease in bookmobile travel since 2000. Myers explained part of the reason is because of school consolidations so the bookmobile didn't go to schools as much as it formerly did.
Residents were able to obtain "pretty much everything" from the bookmobile, including DVDs, videos, magazines, books, large print books, music and other library offerings they requested. Myers said 30,000 items were circulated during the year through the bookmobile.
The bookmobile which has been in current use is quite different from the Ferry library's first bookmobile - a panel truck with shelves on the outside. Myers said it was only used in good weather or things would get wet if they were on the outside shelves.
She thought the library's first bookmobile was used in 1938. The library system later had two bookmobiles until the 1970s when one was eliminated because of gasoline prices.
Bookmobiles were especially popular in the 1930s and '40s when not as many people had cars.
Libraries on wheels have had a long history even though the wheels weren't always on motor vehicles. Great Britain in some areas had horse-drawn vans carrying books in the 1850s, and Chester County, S.C., as early as 1904, had wooden boxes of books on a mule-drawn wagon which traveled around.
Initially, the bookmobile from the Martins Ferry library was known as Bonnie Belmont, but in recent years, it no longer had that name. The one used recently is an Ohio Bluebird Bookmobile.
Mike Crecion, who drove the bookmobile, has been reassigned as branch manager at the Bridgeport Public Library, and Christy Edgar, library assistant, was reassigned to help at the Powhatan Point Public Library and the main library in Martins Ferry.
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