I love the Bookmobile. I’ve been in Atlanta for the past seven days, and it makes me very content to be back in Logan after a week in the city. Don’t get me wrong. I love getting to eat fresh seafood and amazing Thai noodles and sushi. I love seeing my old friends from Memphis and San Francisco and New York and Philly and the rest of the country at the Americasmart. But I also love that where I live in rural eastern New Mexico has a few things to offer that you can’t find elsewhere. Like the Bookmobile. Imagine. Books delivered right to your own main street. For free.
This morning, on my way to the the bank, I saw the Bookmobile parked in front of the Logan Civic Center. I couldn’t believe my luck. I glanced at my watch and knew I only had five minutes before they had to pull out of the parking lot and head somewhere else with their stash of great books (Conchas, Aleta said. Since they have a furlough this Friday, they’re hurrying off the Conchas for the afternoon so that no one there misses their chance at the bookmobile this month). Since time was short, I forewent the bank and headed for the Bookmobile instead. It was almost like it was when I was in grade school, going in the door, smelling those books and that ubiquitous dust (I would never imply that the Bookmobile isn’t clean – things just smell a little like dust in New Mexico, always. . .). The librarians have changed since the sixties, but they’re still extremely patient, pleased to see me, and friendly. My Bookmobile librarians are Paula White, Aleta Smith and Geri Marquez, and I’m frequently amazed that they can remember the books I read in the past several months, much less my name. I asked Aleta today if she didn’t love her job, and she said, “Of course – what could be better than this?”
If you’ve read my previous posts, you know that one of my favorite things is a great book. I come from a long line of avid readers. I remember that when I was a child, my brothers and sister and I would get into trouble for bringing a book to the table when we sat down for a family meal. It was just what we did – we carried a book everywhere. My brothers carried one to read on the tractor while it was warming up or when they took a break for a glass of tea delivered to them by my mom or my sister and me. My sister carried one to read on the school bus until her best friend Maryanne Walker could join her at the back of the bus for high school girl talk. I carried one (or two) with me when I snuck out to my treehouse behind the barn. Although we lived on a farm in rural New Mexico in the sixties, we spent hours every day exploring the world by reading everything we could get our hands on.
We lived eight miles out of town, but one of the events that always got my mom and I into the car and into Logan was the day that the Bookmobile came to town. We did several things with predictable regularity – we went to the First Baptist Church every Sunday morning, Sunday evening and Wednesday night. We went to basketball games to watch my brother Klee play and my sister Belinda lead cheers. We went to my Grandma Ayres’ and my Granny Terry’s houses in Tucumcari for Sunday dinner, alternating from one week to the next at the two houses. If we were extremely lucky and feeling flush, we went to the Mucho Burger after school for an chocolate shake. And we went to the Bookmobile.
I loved the Bookmobile, the smell of all that leather and old paper and dust. I was allowed to sit on the floor and read Dr. Seuss by myself while my mother chose her pile of books. The driver, who was also the librarian, knew me by name, and knew that I loved the Betsy, Tacy and Tib books. On one visit he gave me a book from the series that he had saved back for me, although his first stop was the Mosquero Post Office, because he knew I hadn’t read it yet. I loved the feel and heft of a pile of books, and the knowledge that I had the entire month to savor them before he came back in his RV loaded with New Mexico State Library books. And I loved that, should I really need to keep a book for a longer period of time than that short month, he wouldn’t charge me a fine if I couldn’t bear to part with it.
For those of you who have no reference point for the Bookmobile, it is exactly that – a mobile traveling vehicle full of books. I checked with the New Mexico State Library and was told Bookmobiles have been traveling the state for over fifty years. There’s no limit to the number of books you can check out, and if you have a special request, they’ll try to find your book and bring it to you next month. There aren’t dues, just sometimes a nice reminder in the mail that you’ve kept a book out of the hands of another reader for far too long. You can find more information and their schedule at http://www.nmstatelibrary.org. And you can e-mail your special requests for interlibrary loan to a Bookmobile librarian at firstname.lastname@example.org.
My bookmobile makes stops in such far flung places at Melrose, Lake Arthur, Hagerman, Loving, Grady, Nara Visa, Nogal, Mayhill, even Pep. Places you’ve probably never heard of. I’d love to sit down with the librarians and hear some of their stories about all those readers out there. This morning Aleta was talking about almost getting snowed in at Carlsbad last week on the way to Weed. I think they perform a huge service. I’m hoping there’s some little girl out there, sitting on the floor of the Bookmobile reading Dr. Seuss.
I love the Bookmobile. Especially in this economy, when I can’t afford to buy a lot of new books, its a great place for me to find something to take me around the world and entertain me for the next month. I don’t take my books out to the treehouse anymore, but I do take them out on the deck to my hammock. And sometimes, just for fun, I sneak one to the table during dinner. Even though my daddy loves a great book, he’d have a fit if he knew that!