By Angela H. Hill
The Patrick County library has ramped up its fund-raising campaign for a new bookmobile. Tuesday, Nov. 29, the library launched online giving on Giving Tuesday, a national movement recognizing the Tuesday after Thanksgiving as a global day for donating time and money to charitable causes.
The bookmobile donation website, patrickcountybookmobilefund.org, tracks what’s been raised so far. In less than one week, the bookmobile fund jumped to approximately $45,000 –up from the $25,000 raised during the past 11 years.
While many recent donations weren’t received through the website, branch manager Garry Clifton said the online campaign helps get the word out. Plus, online giving is attractive to those who are accustomed to shopping online and using debit cards rather than writing checks.
Janet Demiray, chair of the Blue Ridge Regional Library Board of Trustees, recently gave $5,000; and the board has pledged $10,000. Other notable donors include My Friend’s Closet clothing store, the Friends of the Library and the Stuart Book Club. The library’s five books sales have raised $6,500.
The library needs a total of $175,000 to purchase a new bookmobile. While donations have trickled in since 2005, the bookmobile is now 19 years old and requires frequent repairs.
Each month, nearly 1,000 people visit the bookmobile, which serves the 18,000 residents throughout Patrick County’s 486 square-miles, plus stops at each elementary school. Bookmobile circulation runs around 3,000, and the vehicle travels 8,000 miles each year.
“We’re going to keep putting Band-aids on the bookmobile until we can’t put them on any longer,” explained Blue Ridge Regional Library System Director Rick Ward.
It’s not the mileage, but the wear and tear from winding, steep roads that lead to repairs, Ward explained. Parts are difficult to find, as are mechanics. When part of the brake system needed repair last year, the part had to be ordered in Canada and the work done in Greensboro, N.C.
Once the money is raised, it will take up to nine months before the new bookmobile is ready because it’s a custom-made vehicle. A bookmobile can easily run up to $300,000 “if you have a lot of bells and whistles,” Ward said.
A bookmobile of some sort has been serving Patrick County for 70 years; almost as long as the library itself has been around, Clifton shared. The first bookmobile in 1946 was instrumental in getting books to county schools, many of which had no library.
Back then, there was not enough money in the budget to keep the library and bookmobile open at the same time, so the bookmobile went out during the day and the branch opened after it returned at 3:30 p.m., according to a written history of the Patrick County library by Mary Britt.
There are few records of the early bookmobiles, Clifton explained, but he would love to hear from community members who can share stories of the early days. Clifton himself drove three different bookmobiles before becoming branch manager.
Just after the library purchased the current bookmobile, Clifton said library management wanted to be forward-thinking in setting aside funds for its eventual replacement. The bookmobile fund began when driver Glen Bryant died suddenly of a heart attack, and his family asked that memorial donations go to a bookmobile fund. That was 1998, and the donations totaled $140.
A few years later, bookmobile driver Bill Staples died and approximately $1,300 in donations were made in Staples’ honor. By 2002, the fund had $11,000. Over the years, the fund has slowly grown.
This spring, however, Ward and Clifton began working with Diane Adkins, who retired as director of the Pittsylvania County Library System. Adkins helped the Pittsylvania library put together an overall fund-raising plan similar to what her system used to fund its new bookmobile.
The plan has already “borne some fruit,” Clifton said, and there will be additional stages of fund-raising throughout this winter and spring. Most of the library’s general funding comes from the Patrick County budget, supplemented by a small amount of state and federal support.
Donations are now received through the nonprofit 501(c)3 Blue Ridge Library Foundation Inc. organization. Anyone wishing to send a check or money order may send it to The Bookmobile Fund – Blue Ridge Library Foundation Inc., Patrick County Library, Attn.: Bookmobile, PO Box 787, Stuart, Va., 24171.