The Durham County Library Bookmobile provides individualized library service to a diverse population throughout Durham County that otherwise does not have access to library services. The bookmobile is on the road six days a week covering over 200 miles each week. We visit over 80 locations each month, driving on highways and back country roads.
Books checked out on the bookmobile are free and it has materials for children and adults in both English and Spanish. All you need is a library card! Patrons can register for a free library card while on the bookmobile. Books checked out from the bookmobile can be returned to any branch. Likewise, books checked out at another branch can be returned to the bookmobile.
For more information, reserves, or requests, please call us at 560-0155 or fax 560-8799.
Although we serve all sectors of the Durham population, our focus is on three major groups: preschools and daycares, Durham public housing neighborhoods, and outlying neighborhoods and shopping centers not located near a branch library.
Preschools and Daycares
The morning schedule is devoted to meeting the library needs of preschool children. A bookmobile visit often introduces a preschooler to the library, in addition to assisting care providers with all of its reading needs by providing plenty of books to use for their curriculum. Children love climbing up into the large vehicle and choosing their own books. Preschool teachers rely on the bookmobile staff to make age appropriate book selections for the children, and to bring special subject books to coincide with their lesson plans. Bookmobile staff enhance the preschool’s curriculum by providing storytelling programs at many of the daycares. Staff tell animated stories to the youngsters helping to develop their reading readiness skills and excitement for reading.
Durham Public Housing Neighborhoods
Afternoon stops target areas full of school-aged children who live in high-density, low income areas in Durham. Staff works closely with the children, encouraging selection of materials that coincide with their studies, reinforcing the importance of reading.
Impromptu reading sessions often take place on the bookmobile. During the school year, staff delivers age-appropriate materials to the city’s recreation centers that have after-school programs.
To keep the children involved in books and reading during the summer months, the bookmobile offers the Summer Reading program and the Reading is Fundamental book distribution at the public housing neighborhoods. Both of these programs stress the joy and importance of reading and offer incentives to encourage children to read.
Outlying Communities and Shopping Centers
Many people in outlying communities rely on the bookmobile to meet their library needs. The bookmobile regularly visits these neighborhoods in the early evening and Saturdays to bring services to working parents, families and older adults. The Bookmobile now has regular stops at apartment complexes heavily populated with Spanish-speaking residents. Bilingual books and books in Spanish are on board to serve the needs of people in Hispanic neighborhoods. We are always happy to have new patrons visiting us at community stops and hope to make regular patrons out of new ones.
The first bookmobile service offered in North Carolina was begun in Durham in 1923. A small one-ton, blue Chevrolet truck with 600 book capacity was purchased “to service the rural areas equally as urban ones.” During the first years, books were delivered to Durham County schools and circulated from there. But, in 1929, bookmobile stops were scheduled at homes, hospitals, and bookdrop stations (service stations, country stores, etc.). One of the most popular and successful ways of reaching rural patrons was through the county home demonstration clubs.
The Durham Colored Library also offered bookmobile service from its early years. Service was begun in 1935 to Negro schools in the county. In 1942, a one-half ton Chevrolet panel truck was purchased to serve outlying Negro communities. In two weeks, it travelled 500 miles and made sixty-four stops.
During these years, there was a distinct line between city/urban and county/rural. Before the automobile was a common possession, before many roads were paved, before television, the bookmobile may well have been the only outside contact many of the people of the community, predominantly farm dwellers, had. Today, the bookmobile serves a much changed community. Private ownership of a suburban home has become the ideal and the automobile a necessity. Paved county roads and superhighways, suburban shopping centers, and television are now the norm. Employment in factory and service jobs as well as in offices have taken the place of farm employment.
In 1970, Durham County purchased an eight-ton Gerstenslager bus with a book capacity of 3,000 volumes. Its emphasis was on books for children, especially preschool children, and popular adult fiction and non-fiction. Special services included storytelling and film programs offered at day care centers, nursery schools, and housing projects. In the summer, the bookmobile’s juvenile patrons could take part in special summer reading programs offered by the library system. The bookmobile of the 1970’s served as an effective way to deliver library services to outlying heavily populated areas until branch libraries could be established there.
In the mid 1980s. Another bookmobile, with the book capacity of 4,000 volumes was purchased and service continued to improve. More branch libraries were built by now and although the neighborhoods changed, emphasis on services remained the same.
In August of 1996, a new 35.3 foot bookmobile with a book capacity of 5,000 was on the road. Bigger than any of the previous bookmobiles in the county, the new vehicle had a minimum headroom of 77″, an exterior width of 96″, and a height of 11’2″ including the air conditioners. It was the first bookmobile in the county to have a built-in wheelchair lift. There are two desks, one for checkout and one for returns.