The Martinsville Bulletin
Ben R. Williams
STUART-In order to “keep reading rolling,” the Patrick County Library Bookmobile will need a little help from the community.
On Tuesday, the Blue Ridge Regional Library Foundation launched a fundraising campaign to purchase a new Patrick County Library Bookmobile to replace the current vehicle.
Garry Clifton, who is branch manager at the Patrick County Library and a former bookmobile driver, said that they wanted to begin the fundraiser on “Giving Tuesday,” the global day of giving that falls on the Tuesday after Thanksgiving.
“We thought it would be a great day to kick off our fundraiser and get the word out,” Clifton said. “One of the goals we’ve had for a long time is to have a webpage for the bookmobile fund, because up until (Tuesday), if you wanted to donate to the fund, you had to come by the library or mail in a check. Now, you can go on our website, hit our ‘Donate Now’ button, and you can donate online.”
The new website – patrickcountybookmobilefund.org – is now live, although those who prefer to donate in person or mail a check are still able to do so.
While the fundraiser formally began Tuesday, the bookmobile fund started in 2005, Clifton said. Glen Bryant, a former bookmobile patron, passed away unexpectedly that year, Clifton said, and at his funeral, his wife told those in attendance that if they wanted to donate to a cause her husband was passionate about, they should donate to the bookmobile.
The library received $140 in donations that day, Clifton said, and thanks to fundraising efforts from other library supporters, private donations, and a memorial fund for former bookmobile driver Bill Staples, the fund currently stands at $31,000.
However, Clifton said, there’s still a long way to go. The Blue Ridge Regional Library Foundation hopes to raise a total of $175,000 by June 30 – the end of the fiscal year – to put in an order for a new bookmobile. Because the vehicles are heavily customized, Clifton said, it’s impossible to buy a new bookmobile for any less.
“We have funds to keep the service going, to pay the driver, to buy materials and maintain it, but we did not have any money set aside to buy another vehicle, so that’s the reason we started the fund,” Clifton said.
According to Betty Scott, treasurer of Friends of the Blue Ridge Regional Library System, the customization also makes it difficult to find people who are able to service the current bookmobile, and that’s a problem. After nearly two decades on the road, the current bookmobile needs more TLC than ever before.
“It really hit home for a lot of people this summer,” Clifton said. “We had a mechanical problem that could not be fixed easily. The vehicle was at a shop in Greensboro for two months. I think it became real for people. This is an aging vehicle. It’s 18 years old. It’s getting harder to find parts, and it’s getting harder to find people that will work on it.”
Rick Ward, director of the Blue Ridge Regional Library System, said that the mechanic they took the bookmobile to remarked that he had only seen one similar vehicle in his whole career. Unfortunately, Ward said, that vehicle was the Patrick County Bookmobile; they had taken it to the shop years earlier and the mechanic had forgotten.
“The importance of the bookmobile can’t be stressed enough,” Ward said. “We’re a large county, and it can take you 30 minutes to get from here to some of the areas of the county, like Ararat or Woolwine or Meadows of Dan. Elderly patrons, especially, have a hard time getting here, and we want to make sure that library service is available to the entire county. We go to all of the elementary schools and supplement their collections. It’s just something we feel very strongly about, and the people of Patrick County feel very strongly about as well.”
Some years ago, when Ward was still manager of the Patrick County Library, he said that he spoke at a Patrick County Board of Supervisors meeting on behalf of the library because the county was considering cutting library funding.
Unbeknownst to Ward, a rumor had gotten out in the community that the county was going to specifically cut funding to the bookmobile, and the pastor at Trinity Christian School spearheaded an effort to prevent the cut. He arrived at the supervisors meeting with a petition to save the bookmobile, signed by about 300 Patrick County residents.
“I was just stunned,” Ward said.
Janet Demiray, chair of the Blue Ridge Regional Library Board of Trustees and also a member of the Blue Ridge Regional Library Foundation Board, said that among the many different sites that the bookmobile visits to bring library materials to all of Patrick County, it also visits every single elementary school in the county and fills in the gaps in their libraries.
“We’re able to bring in new materials and rotate them around so that the children have access to lots of interesting materials and age-appropriate materials,” she said. “I think people support the library and value the library and the bookmobile, but we never think about how it’s funded and that you have to keep asking for money every year from our local government to keep it running. This is something that we need to keep reiterating. … The library system is a positive for our communities, but the library system depends on the taxpayers and our local government for the bulk of its support.”
To that end, on Tuesday morning, Demiray made a $5,000 donation to the bookmobile fund, saying that she would not have had her successful career had it not been for the Patrick County Library.
Tammy Cope, Patrick County Bookmobile Coordinator, said that all anyone needs to do to see the value of the bookmobile is watch the young folks swarm the vehicle when it rolls up to their elementary school.
“The best part for me is the kids, their excitement when they engulf the bookmobile,” she said. “They have to find the perfect book. When they bring it to the front and check out, the smile that they leave with, that makes it worth everything we’re doing.”
To donate to the Patrick County Library Bookmobile Fund, visit patrickcountybookmobilefund.org and click on the “Donate Now” button. Checks can be made out to the Blue Ridge Regional Library Foundation Inc. and mailed to Patrick County Bookmobile Fund, P.O. Box 787, Stuart, Va. 24171.
The Blue Ridge Regional Library Foundation Inc. is a tax-deductible non-profit organization.
Ben R. Williams reports for the Martinsville Bulletin. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org