End of bookmobile service is sad for frequent users

Published 12:00 am Friday, January 12, 2001

Photo by Jennifer Hemmingsen

&t;br&gt The decision to discontinue bookmobile services in Freeborn County seemed like an easy one.

Friday, January 12, 2001

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The decision to discontinue bookmobile services in Freeborn County seemed like an easy one. Use was declining, and materials were twice as expensive to circulate as those checked out of the Albert Lea Library.

But when the Freeborn County Board of Commissioners decided cancel the bookmobile and redirect the funding to the library, they were surprised to discover that bookmobile users, while few, were loyal. They got a lot of calls from concerned users.

Imogene Opdahl of Emmons was one of them. When it was in service, Opdahl used the bookmobile twice a month.

|&uot;Just about every time they were in town,&uot; she said.

Mostly, Opdahl checked out books. But magazines and videos were also available, or she could special order other materials.


If you were looking for a certain book, they would try to find it for you,&uot; she said.

Now Opdahl has to drive to Albert Lea to use the library. She doesn’t do it very often, she said.

&uot;You have to try to coordinate that with whatever else you’re doing,&uot; she said.

It’s a pain in the gas tank, especially with high fuel prices, she said. But Opdahl isn’t concerned with her own inconvenience as much as that of her community members.

&uot;Like the elderly who don’t get around very well in the winter,&uot; she said. &uot;It’s easier for them to come a block or two blocks than it is for them to come 12 miles.

&uot;Some of them are just not getting books,&uot; she said.

If the bookmobile wasn’t well used anywhere else, it was in Emmons, she said.

&uot;It was kind of a social gathering, too,&uot; she said. &uot;A lot of them would go down to the bookmobile and then go down and have lunch. It was right before noon, so it was kind of a nice thing.&uot;

Opdahl, a member of the Emmons city council, said the city has not really addressed the issue yet.

&uot;I think we’ll probably just wait and see what happens,&uot; she said.

While many in Emmons miss the service, only about 4,500 items were circulated from the bookmobile in the year 2000, said Albert Lea Public Library Director Lori Barkema.

&uot;We do that kind of traffic in two to three days (in the library),&uot; she said.

The bookmobile that served Clarks Grove, Emmons, Freeborn, Glenville, Hayward and Hollandale saw decreased circulation numbers, but it is not an indication of a statewide trend.

&uot;Actually, around the state, it kind of ebbs and flows,&uot; said Ann Hutton, Executive Director Southeastern Libraries Cooperating (SELCO).

But the role of the bookmobile is changing in many cities. Northfield has recently purchased a bookmobile to serve day cares and a lower income housing unit, for example.

&uot;It really depends on the changing demographics of a specific community,&uot; Hutton said.

Bookmobiles tend to be helpful to communities in serving nursing homes, day cares, or other institutions that might have a hard time bringing people to the library, Hutton said.

&uot;These downtown stops just in the general community don’t seem to be as popular or as well used,&uot; she said.

More people work during the day then ever before, and aren’t available to meet the bookmobile on such stops, she said. SELCO hired an outside consultant to study bookmobile use. The results of the study will be available later this month.

Many counties around the state are reducing their services, but Freeborn County was the only area to end bookmobile service this year, Hutton said.

&uot;I had preliminary discussions about reducing bookmobile use in Freeborn County, but had hoped that no decision would be made before the results of the study were completed,&uot; she said.

Library patrons can order materials from SELCO’s Web site at www.selco.lib.mn.us, she said. Consumers can access all materials held by 78 libraries through the online library catalog and pick them up at any designated pickup site. SELCO materials can be returned to any pickup site.

Patrons who are Minnesota residents can also access newspaper and magazine articles through a number of state-subscribed databases through the site.