When the white bus with the powder blue lettering rolls into the parking lot, the anticipation builds in classrooms as children begin to think about what they want to check out from the Sidney Public Library Bookmobile.
Children and adults alike in Cheyenne County have the opportunity to access their favorite books when adult services librarian Franki Beeken makes her rounds, visiting pre-schools, public schools and other select locations in Sidney, Potter, Gurley, Dalton, Lodgepole and Chappell. The fall/winter schedule for the service begins Sept. 8, and will run through Dec. 16. There are more stops on the schedule this year than there have been in the past as the library hopes to expand the reach of the service.
“That way, I can reach school kids and then hopefully reach some of the community members who don’t get to Sidney, but who would maybe want to use the library,” Beeken said.
Because each town along her route has its own library, Beeken said she doesn’t want to take anything away from those libraries.
“But if I can increase usage of our library, and maybe we have something their libraries don’t have that they would want to read or listen to,” she said. “I’m trying to reach out to everyone, and get them what they’re looking for.”
Keeping more than 1,000 selections up to date is an important task, and Beeken will bring a specific book on request.
“I try to refresh the books that I have on there every month,” Beeken said of the selections available. “I’m just trying to make sure I have a little bit of everything that someone might want.”
Beeken said she enjoys the interaction with patrons in the Bookmobile.
“I like going out and seeing the kids, and seeing how excited they get when they get to pick out their own books and check them out,” she said. “I love being able to bring books to people who wouldn’t otherwise be able to get them.”
Growing up in Sidney, Beeken always loved to read. Her studies at Chadron State College taught her about shelf reading, and expanded her love of books, so when a position was open at the Sidney library, she jumped at the opportunity.
When the previous Bookmobile driver left, Beeken was asked to take over. She had never driven a vehicle like the bus before.
“It was a little terrifying to even think about driving it, but I was like, ‘Yeah, I’ll try it,’” she said. “I didn’t think I was going to like it, but I ended up loving it. ... I’ve learned very quickly you have to start slowing down way earlier than in a normal car, otherwise books end up on the floor.”
As the recent releases in the library come off the new book shelves in the library, Beeken has been taking them on the Bookmobile to swap out with other books. She also looks for books that may not have been checked out for a while, hoping to give them new life on the Bookmobile.
“I was really surprised how many of the non-fiction books the kids go for,” Beeken said. “They love the non-fiction, they love the joke books, they love books on animals. I have more biographies that people request and history-based books. And a lot of Westerns.”
Only one time last year was the weather bad enough to keep the Bookmobile from its scheduled route.
Sidney is one of only eight libraries offering Bookmobiles in Nebraska. The others are in Columbus, Hastings, Kearney, Lincoln, Rock County (Bassett), Thomas County (Thedford) and Valentine.
“It’s a fun way for us to reach out to people,” Beeken said, “and a fun way for us to get books to people who can’t normally come to town or who don’t normally come to Sidney. It’s a mobile extension of our library, and we want to be able to provide people with different reading materials.”
The entire schedule for the Bookmobile can be found at http://sidneypubliclibrary.org/bookmobile-schedule/ or by calling the library at 308-254-3110.
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