Feeding reading habits of diverse towns

Jane Stebbins and Dean Miller Special to the Leader
Posted 9/18/19

If books introduce readers to places they can only imagine, then the Jefferson County Bookmobile is their portal to the universe.

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Feeding reading habits of diverse towns

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If books introduce readers to places they can only imagine, then the Jefferson County Bookmobile is their portal to the universe.

“People pull up just as we pull up,” said mobile services manager Celeste Bennett, of the excitement the bookmobile brings to various communities each week. “We have a lot of regulars.”

Indeed, on a recent September afternoon, Ann Gagnier was up the steps and into the bright skylight-lit converted RV soon after it parked in Port Ludlow at the west end of the Village Way cluster of shops. Tucked up against a retaining wall of boulders and evergreens, it looked like a permanent fixture, with shady awnings and wide-open walls allowing easy in and out access.

“This was one of the first places I came to when we moved to Port Ludlow,” Gagnier said, poring over a wall of new fiction and other titles. “It’s convenient for people who don’t want to drive too far.”

The bookmobile checks out an average of 4,000 items — books, magazines, audio books, large print, CDs and DVDs — to about 900 people each month. It also serves as a courier to all the county book drops, school libraries, jail, food banks and community centers; offers services for those who are home-bound; and serves the western, coastal libraries.

Bennett is one of six who distribute, collect and shelve the books, putting 200 miles on the bookmobile — the fourth in more than 30 years — each week.

“We drive the dragon,” she said of the county’s uniquely-shaped topography. “Gardiner, Brinnon, Quilcene, Cape George, Paradise Bay, Port Ludlow, Coyle. It’s a well-used service, and it saves people from having to drive, go over Mt. Walker.”

Its mission is to serve everyone in the rural areas, where public transportation is limited, drive times can be long, the population skews older and some don’t feel safe driving, particularly in the winter.

“I’ve learned there’s some individual character in each small community in the county,” Bennett said. “People come on board, and say, ‘I remember this book from childhood; I can’t remember the title …’ and here we are in a 34-foot truck in the wild, we get online, find it, order it and two weeks later it’s in that person’s hand.”

Right now, fast-paced action mystery thrillers are all the rage, and the younger set is reading a lot of non-fiction this summer, she said.

“With the Brinnon schools, that just flies off the shelves,” Bennett said. “I think kids are getting a good foundation in science and math, and they want to learn about dinosaurs and animals and how to do things.”

It’s a chance for neighbors to catch up, as well, serving as a gathering place for many.

“People say they don’t know what they’d do without the bookmobile,” Bennett said. “It’s a community hub. It’s pretty much a happy place.”

Leader Editor Dean Miller visited the Bookmobile during its stopover in Port Ludlow and contributed to this report.

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