Last of bookmobiles coming to a stop

2:11 pm August 23rd, 2012

Pierce County Lbrary System’s bookmobiles, already eliminated in rural areas, will end entirely by the end of this year.

As of Aug. 31, the Explorer Kids’ Bookmobile will stop serving schools and, along with family bookmobiles, will stop going to communities in mid-November.

“Sadly we can no longer afford to run the bookmobiles,” said Neel Parikh, executive director for the Library System (PCLS).

But the libraries’ Board of Trustees has approved a new way of delivering books, movies, magazines and other items directly to children in the Bethel, Clover Park and Franklin Pierce school districts.

“We are committed to getting books into the hands of children throughout our service area,” Parikh said. “We will serve even more children than we did with the bookmobiles, which are aging and costly to operate, especially in today’s economy.”

The changes come on the heels of research showing less than 1 percent of 256,000 library cardholders countywide use bookmobiles. Library officials said the bookmobiles have primarily served low-income neighborhoods in central Pierce County, including Graham and Frederickson, Fife and Lakewood. About 700 people regularly use bookmobiles, borrowing nearly 6,000 items a month. They also use libraries and can continue borrowing items that way and online.

Ending bookmobiles is a savings of $180,000 that can help bridge an anticipated shortfall of $2.6 million to $3 million in the libraries’ 2013 budget, officials said. The move will eliminate five jobs equaling about three full-time positions and also save money on fuel and maintenance of the vehicles.

Earlier this year, 11 of the bookmobiles’ 15 stops, most of them rurral, were eliminated in an initial cutback. The reduction was due to the library system’s expansion to 17 branches and the ways that library services have changed, officials said.

Bookmobiles have served communities for 64 years.

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