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Pierce County Library System To Reduce Bookmobile Service

The number of people who used the bookmobile service declined, as the libraries built more branches and offered online services. The service will stop in multiple areas of Pierce County, including Ashford, Elbe and Roy.

Beginning in January, the Pierce County Library System will significantly reduce its traditional bookmobile service to rural and remote areas.

It will reduce the number of places the bookmobiles stopped by 11 — from an average of 15 locations.

“Bookmobile service has served our communities well for 64 years,” said Neel Parikh, executive director of Pierce County Library. “We now have 17, soon to be 18 library buildings, and online access 24/7—which were not part of the library when it started serving the county in 1946.” 

The library is stopping the bookmobile in places of low usage and retaining it in four areas that heavily use the bookmobile. The Explorer Kids’ Bookmobile will continue to provide service at schools and associated family community stops. Due to the isolation of Anderson Island and its high usage, the library will continue to provide service at the Anderson Island Community Clubhouse.

Over time the number of people who used the bookmobile declined, as the library system provided more libraries and online services. Currently, less than 1 percent of the library’s 251,000 card holders use the bookmobiles. The 756 people most directly affected will continue to have access to services through library buildings and online services.

“Through the years, we continually reviewed how best to serve people in rural and remote areas and added and changed bookmobile stops and services,” said Parikh. “Reducing bookmobile service is a service delivery decision. We know that people have become increasingly mobile and our services are mobile, too—online."

Significantly reducing the bookmobile is a $140,000 savings, which helps to lessen the library’s $1.9 million shortfall for 2012. Decreasing the traditional bookmobile will reduce the hours of a driver and cut costs to buy books, materials, fuel and maintenance for the vehicles. Other staff from the traditional bookmobiles will be reassigned, mostly to the Fife Pierce County Library that will open in fall 2011.

In 2009, the library conducted a survey of people living in outlying areas of the county and learned that two-thirds of the residents got their books and information from the Internet and were visiting Pierce County Libraries, while only 5 percent were using a bookmobile.

Only a few library systems in Washington State still offer a family bookmobile service. Most others stopped offering the service many years ago.

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