Originally published November 21, 2012 at 6 a.m., updated November 20, 2012 at 2:18 p.m.
The 40-feet-long, brightly colored bus parked in downtown Russellville Saturday afternoon caught the attention of eight-year-old Shaelin Kirchner.
Her first question was “what’s in it?” Her parents response was the Missouri River Regional Library’s bookmobile.
So excited to learn it was full of books, Shaelin said she had to check it out — literally. She left with a stack of books and other media.
The thrill of the bookmobile is one of the things Jon Karr, outreach service coordinator, enjoys about his job.
“You pull up in this beast and those kids light up,” Karr said.
As a child growing up in Russellville, Karr recalled his own fascination with the “whole ‘nother world” behind the steal door of the bookmobile.
“All the books were like candy,” said Karr, who admitted not being the best reader when he was young. “There was always something there I could find to read — cartoon characters or Hardy Boys.”
But he never thought then he would be providing the same experience for children and adults throughout Cole and Osage counties, Karr said. He started with the library 15 years ago in maintenance then a couple other internal departments before landing the bookmobile job seven years ago.
“It’s a neat and special feeling to pull up to the schools and see especially the kindergartners or first graders so excited,” Karr said.
Maybe not wearing giddy big smiles, but many of the faithful patrons to the monthly community stops are equally eager to board what they consider their 4,000 book, “town library,” Karr said.
“These are hard-working people; they’re glad we’re bringing it to them,” he said.
Linda Whittle is retired and rarely travels into Jefferson City. So she keeps the bookmobile stop on her home calendar.
“This is one of the highlights of my whole month,” Whittle said.
Karr and other staff know Whittle likes Christian fiction and large print novels. So they keep an eye out for books she might like. And they bring her requests, like this month’s installment of a Beverly Lewis series.
“Reading is an important part of my day; it’s relaxing to read at night before going to bed,” Whittle said.
Amber Gardner and her daughter Emma, 3, also have made it a monthly habit to meet the bookmobile.
“We always read together; without the bookmobile we might do something different,” Gardner said.
Saturday Emma picked out books from the Arthur and Berenstain Bears series, as well as a book for her brother who was at home sick.
“I like taking books out to the people,” Karr said. “The neatest thing is to get to know them.”
In addition to stops at rural school and communities, day cares and retirement centers, the library’s outreach program also serves homebound individuals.
“Listening to them is important, just your average social kindness,” Karr said.