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County bookmobile brings a community together

How important is the LaGrange County Library Bookmobile?

In 2011, the bookmobile staff checked out 77,751 books, with over 50,000 of those being children’s books. That’s a lot of books in the hands of a lot of readers around the county.

The bookmobile travels 175 miles a week, making a total of 81 stops over the course of a three-week rotation. Thirty-three of these stops are at schools, which includes Amish schools along with Wolcott-Mills, Lima-Brighton and Prairie Heights Elementary schools. “It’s something the kids love,” said Bookmobile Supervisor Kitty Helmkamp. “It’s a great way for social interaction.”

And it’s not unusual for patrons who use the bookmobile to max out their allotment on their library card. That’s why the bookmobile carries 3,000 books at a time.

“Driving around the county is like visiting friends at all the stops,” Helmkamp said. “I’ve never told anyone what I do without them smiling. They all say ‘That’s so cool!’”

Helmkamp has been working with the county’s library board to purchase a new bookmobile, which they approved at their board meeting this week (see related article.) Helmkamp and the rest of the bookmobile staff, Johnnetta Brown, Dee Young, and Jody Blake, have also been working to raise funds to go toward a matching grant from the Dekko Foundation of up to $80,000. The deadline for matching funds for the grant was extended to March 1, 2012.

While most of the recent work to keep the bookmobile on the road has been done locally at Norris Truck, other issues, like the current generator problem that has taken the bookmobile off the road for over a month, have to be done outside the county.“It’s very important to stay on the road. While it’s off the road, it’s very hard for us not to be taking care of our people,” Helmkamp stated. The library will not assess fines for overdue books caused by the time off the road. Others have been bringing their books back to other library branches. 

Meanwhile, there are 81 stops asking when the bookmobile is coming back, she added.

The staff continues to work hard to raise funds to get more of the Dekko matching grant funds to offset the cost of the new bookmobile. In the fall, they raised over $1,000 at the Shipshewana Crafters Fair by selling items made and donated by library patrons. They’ve also been working with the schools they serve. Patrons can also drop money into jugs placed at all of the branches to help.