Bookmobile: Bringing the library to outlying communities

Fairbanks North Star Borough Public Libraries' Bookmobile at the Salcha Store &...
Fairbanks North Star Borough Public Libraries' Bookmobile at the Salcha Store & Services on Saturday. (Sara Tewksbury/KTVF) (KTVF)
Published: Feb. 17, 2020 at 1:29 PM AKST
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Children and families in outlying communities might not have easy access to public libraries. The Fairbanks North Star Borough Public Libraries' mobile library called the Bookmobile visits these communities monthly.

Littie Ballard, library assistant III at the Noel Wein Library, along with her coworker Karen Henspeter run the Bookmobile.

“I love it, it’s so awesome getting to meet wonderful people who really appreciate us, and we really appreciate them and we get to know them so well,” said Ballard.

The Bookmobile travels to the outlying communities including Salcha, Two Rivers, Haystack, Ester and Goldstream once a month.

“We want to be where people are... these outlying communities that might have their own library if they were anywhere besides here. So we have North Pole, and Noel Wein, and we are the little mobile library that visits these communities that just don’t have their own collection,” said Ballard.

“When I first got the job I really loved the idea of the Bookmobile. There are a lot of libraries in the Lower 48 that don’t have this kind of resource, especially in southern states, where there are rural communities that could benefit from it, but they just don’t have it,” said AmeriCorps Vista Program Specialist Zak Mitchell.

“We do a lot of things that the library can do. We can issue cards, we can renew things for you, just a lot of those things,” said Ballard.

Ballard says the Bookmobile has about 1000 items altogether -- from books to DVDs.

“We have a small slice of what the Noel Wein Library has, we pull our books from Noel Wein’s shelves. We have books for young people, we have juvenile fiction books, we have beginner books, we have juvenile nonfiction books, picture books, kids books on CDs, adult books on CDs, nonfiction, regular DVDs, nonfiction DVDs, everything that the library has,” said Ballard.

Ballard says it is fun to choose what to put in the Bookmobile to refresh the selection. “We get to just browse the library for hours on end finding what we think are the more interesting things, a lot of newer things. We think about people at these different stops that we go to, and we think ‘what would they like? What would somebody we know like?’ and we can put that on the Bookmobile thinking of a specific person, which is pretty cool,” said Ballard.

Ballard says they have regulars at all of their stops. “That’s pretty much how we operate because people get used to using the Bookmobile and it’s their library,” said Ballard

One young patron, Eli, says he goes to the bookmobile every time it is in Salcha, “it’s really convenient, because then it spares us the drive of going all the way to North Pole or Fairbanks.”

Eli says he usually looks at the fictional books, “I’m into fiction and dragons and medieval stuff, I think it’s pretty neat,” said Eli.

When Eli came to the Bookmobile on Saturday he said checked out an audio book and some movies. “It has a bunch of topics to look through, you never really know what you’re going to get until you go there and check it out,” said Eli.

“It’s a public service, we want people to be able to access the books that their taxes are paying for, and as many of the services as they can, “said Ballard. She welcomes the public to come check out the Bookmobile.

For the schedule and more information on the

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