A new KCLS van will bring books directly to Islanders

Several Island children will have the chance to explore the wonders of the public library this week without ever stepping foot into the brick building at Ober Park. The library, in fact, will go to them.

Called a Library2Go!, the new traveling library, outfitted with books, CDs and DVDs, is a bright red Dodge Sprinter van that the King County Library System (KCLS) is sending to communities to serve the needs of those who might not ordinarily go to the library. People with low incomes, seniors and new immigrants are all on the library’s to-visit list, but for now, kids are first in line as the librarians settle into the new outreach program, according to Nancy Smith, the head of outreach for KCLS.

On Vashon, the van will visit the childcare program at Chautauqua run by Vashon Youth & Family Services and the preschool and daycare Kids Are People Too run by Danielle York. The first visit is set for tomorrow, Oct. 21, and monthly visits are expected after that. The two programs were chosen because they serve kids whose cost of attending is government subsidized, one of the KCLS requirements for a van visit.

“It’s going to be a great way to get the library out to kids and people who might not be able to easily get to the library otherwise,” said Ursula Schwaiger, the children’s librarian at the Vashon Library. Schwaiger and library assistant Chel-sea Weimar have been trained in the ins and outs of book mobiles, including driving the 24-foot vehicle, and are ready to greet the kids.

In all, there are four identical vans that will be shared by several KCLS libraries. Each is fully stocked, partially with materials KCLS already owned as well as with some of the $100,000 worth of new materials purchased just for this program. Materials can be easily changed to fit the needs of the patrons, Schwaiger noted. Some of the shelves can unsnap from the wall and become a cart to take into the library and load up.

Once all the librarians in the cluster feel experienced with kids and the van, they will move on to serving seniors, Smith said, likely at adult day homes and care centers.

Each of the vans, with power and computer access for staff, is sophisticated, Smith noted, and cost $163,000 a piece. The majority of the funding came from bond money; additional funds were donated by organizations, grants and private sources. The Friends of the Vashon Library contributed $5,000 to the new-materials fund, Schwaiger said.

The first vans were on the streets this August, and within two months, they had visited nearly 80 day cares and served more than 1,000 children, some of whom had never been to a KCLS library before, Smith said. The response has been enthusiastic.

“My favorite thing is the look on children’s faces when the bus pulls up, and they’re jumping up and down, screaming, ‘The library bus! The library bus!’” Smith said.

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