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More than 1,200 a month use York County bookmobile

Nobody had to remind any of the 4- and 5-year-olds at Giving Tree Child Development Center in Lake Wylie that Friday was bookmobile day. Kids know. They love the books delivered to the door twice a month. They had their library cards in their tiny fingers and their books ready to return, and they rushed to get on first to get new books.

A kid named Logan Smith climbed on and turned his book in and got 'Happy Birthday, Good Knight,' for the next two weeks. He held it like a Christmas present. Better -- when finished he gets to trade it in for another one.

"Awesome!" Logan said.

Then other kids followed, Alexys Franklin with "Fancy Nancy" and Ben Lauer with "Billy Tartle Say Cheese." Kids grabbed "Purplicious" and "Billy & Milly Short & Silly' and so many more. They all rushed off to maybe be the lucky one to have their library book from the York County Library Bookmobile read aloud in class before getting that wonderful book read at home.

Wednesday is the first-ever National Bookmobile Day, and it seems far too late for this great bookmobile in York County that in eight years has racked up more than 10,000 clients and 61,000 miles. The York County bus fitted into a rolling library has the largest number of bi-weekly stops -- 54 -- in all of the Southeast United States, according to the two ladies who drive the bookmobile.

"We stay on the road," said Terri Hovis, one of the bookmobile library assistants who are on the bus five days a week. Hovis has been on the bookmobile for 15 years, her partner Deana Warren for a bunch of years, too, and they wouldn't trade it for the world.

At many stops, Hovis and Warren have story time, too, and read to the young and not-so-young.

"The places we go, so many people just rush up and say that they could not live without the bookmobile," Warren said. "We give people something they can treasure, even if it is just for two weeks. But then we come back again, every two weeks."

The bookmobile carries more than 3,000 books, DVDs and other great stuff to people who might otherwise not have access to the wonder of words and knowledge and learning.

Dina Grant, outreach and mobile services manager for the York County Library system, described the bookmobile bought in 2002 for $142,000 as a "vital part of service to York County's communities."

Senior citizens at nursing homes are a huge client base, as are adult day cares. Those clients often order books by title or subject, a few at a time, that are delivered by the bookmobile. Community centers, academies for pre-kindergarten children such as Giving Tree, after-school centers, day cares - those clients generally have bounding kids or teens coming on for a book that might unlock the future found between the covers. The only requirement is a library card, which is free.

But the return is more than 1,200 people each month who experience books and words, reading and learning -- instead of TV and video games.

"The bookmobile is a precious resource for not just us, but so many in the community," said Lauri Barnette, director/operator of Giving Tree. From Sharon to Fort Mill, Lake Wylie to Lesslie, the York County Bookmobile is the favorite of many who otherwise could not get to one of the county library branches.

For rural people, the shut-in, those without transportation, the bookmobile for years has been a saving grace. In Sharon, west of York, where 82 children attend Small World Academy, the Bookmobile is important for the center to get reading materials for the children, said Betty Chason, owner/director.

"We check out 100, maybe 150 books every two weeks, and use those to read to the children," Chason said. "It would be impossible for us to get all these children to one of the library branches, so the Bookmobile comes to us. It is a wonderful service."

Bookmobiles are older even than cars: The first one supposedly started more than a century ago with a horse and wagon. There are bookmobiles pulled by camels and donkeys in some countries.

It just goes to show some old ideas don't get old. Reading and learning never goes out of style.

Yet in York County, there is that big Bookmobile that looks like a camper but has stuff better than sleeping bags inside.

It has, in the words of Allie Jones, 5: " 'Wiggle & Waggle' -- and I can't wait to go home and read it."

About the bookmobile

How big? 28-foot Blue Bird bus from Ohio Bus service.

Capacity: 3,000-plus volumes: books, magazines, DVDs, audio books.

Number of stops: 54 stops every two weeks.

Types of stops: Day care centers, nursing homes, assisted living facilities, neighborhoods, schools, after-school programs.

Number visitors: Around 1,200 per month. Story times provided for 1,450 children per month.

Additional programs: Special school visits, career days, community festivals.

Want to know more?: Call Dina Grant, Outreach and Bookmobile Services manager, 803-981-5841. Bookmobile schedule can be found on the Web site at www.yclibrary.org. Click on Bookmobile under Hours & Locations.

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