In its first summer in operation, a western Massachusetts city’s bookmobile has been a big success. Library advocates hope the service offered in Chicopee will inspire other communities to put libraries on wheels.
The Chicopee Public Library Bookmobile, which began a biweekly schedule in late June of two 90- minute stops per day that will end the Friday before Labor Day, is on course to exceed 2,000 customers who checked out close to 1,300 items.
Mayor Richard Kos, who championed the creation of a bookmobile, said it was a “home run.”
The bookmobile summer schedule took it to each neighborhood throughout the city. There were weekly stops at the farmers’ market and the senior center. Special appearances were made at outdoor movie nights and the National Night Out event. There were rotating visits to city parks where people could take a book out, read it in the park, and return it the same day.
" There was an appetite for this and we are so proud we were able to do it and thank the Polish National Credit Union," said Kos.
The Credit Union donated $75,000 to purchase the vehicle to carry the library materials.
The eyes of Chicopee Library Director Nancy Contois light up when she talks about the bookmobile. It has room for 500-600 books and DVD’s. There are iPads patrons can use in the vehicle, and wi-fi for people to download ebooks to their own readers, or go to the library website to request a book for deliver on the next bookmobile visit.
" Eleven years ago we opened the main library on Front Street, which is a beautiful facility. But, we wanted to take it one step further and get out into the community and this ( bookmobile) brings our library services to where our public is," said Contois.
Chicopee had the only public library bookmobile operating in western Massachusetts this summer.
Susan Jaye-Kaplan, co-founder of Link to Libraries, said a successful mobile library program such as Chicopee’s could encourage a comeback, of sorts, for the urban bookmobile.
" They should be in more cities because in places like Chicopee and Springfield and Worcester children don't have the ability to get to a library and they don't get to take their books home from school," she said.
The launch of the bookmobile in Chicopee in late June coincided with the closing of the Chicopee Falls Branch Library. Officials said the use of the once-popular branch had declined sharply over the last decade, as people switched to the new main library just about a mile away.
Mayor Kos said he hopes to “repurpose” the building as a neighborhood center. Any use other than as a library requires permission from the state legislature because the building is in a park that was paid for with state funds.