What do you call a Bookmobile that doesn’t move? It’s not a riddle, it’s a real question that library staff at BAPL had to ponder after purchasing a “decommissioned” bookmobile and towing it to Fountain Hill. The name they came up with is “Books on the Hill” and after a long and windy road, it’s ready to open on Monday, August 16.
“It started when we saw the bookmobile for sale on the state library email list,” said BAPL Executive Director Josh Berk. “A library system in Bloomsburg was selling it for a bargain price because it didn’t run. The engine and brakes were shot. They explained that it would be pretty expensive to get road-ready, but the interior was perfectly ready to go.” A Bloomsburg librarian suggested it could be used as a mini-branch or a satellite location. The vehicle is 30 feet-long, with enough built-in shelving for thousands of books and other library items. BAPL is always looking for ways to expand services to the communities it serves, so we jumped at the chance.
“We had it towed to Bethlehem,” Berk said, “and then the fun began.”
The fun part was rebranding the Bloomsburg bookmobile for its new home. BAPL contacted acclaimed children’s book illustrator (and known bookmobile aficionado) Zachariah Ohara to do some custom art for the vehicle. Books on the Hill is now decorated with trees and greenery befitting its park setting. It also has lots of cute critters reading, including a bunny balancing a stack of books in each hand as she skateboards over a tree stump. The art on the back includes a donor wall, thanking all the corporate sponsors and generous individuals who contributed to the project, including Lehigh Valley Apparel Creations, who donated custom “Books on the Hill” shirts for the library to sell as a fundraiser.
There was a lot of work to be done, including finding and preparing a location for the new library operation. Library staff and Borough employees settled on a suitable spot adjacent to the Fountain Hill pool at Spiegel Street and Stanley Avenue (right near the Little League field and the Wawa).
“It was indeed in good shape, but a ton of changes had to be made to get the vehicle ready for its new use,” Berk said, comparing it more to building a house than fixing up a truck. And then the lockdowns of 2020 threw the calendar off further. But the metaphorical ribbon will finally be cut on Monday at 10am. (Yes, there is air conditioning!) The hours are below:
Alternate Fri/Sat: 10-1
[Saturdays start 10/2/21]
“I don’t really know of anything like it in Pennsylvania libraries,” Berk said. “It’s innovative and it’s exciting and we couldn’t be happier with how it turned out. Come check out a book — I’ll see you there!”