Thursday, March 3, 2011

Same Service, New Wheels: Beverly’s New Bookmobile Hits the Streets

Librarian Linda Caravaggio outside
the 'old' bookmobile.
photo by Christian Brink
By Christian Brink
Gordon College News Service
(This story appeared March 7 in The Boston Globe, Beverly site, and March 14 in The Salem News.)

Beverly, MA—Downloading a book may be quicker, but it’s not as stylish—or personal—as having one delivered from the Beverly Public Library’s brand new bookmobile.

On March 19 at 7 p.m., the Beverly Public Library will celebrate the arrival of its newly constructed bookmobile at the American Legion Spear Post in Beverly for a night with the Orville Giddings Band. The event is free for all bookmobile-lovers and friends of the Beverly library, and will include music and dancing as the community recognizes the bookmobile’s continuing service that started 59 years ago.

“The bookmobile service fulfills the need of getting books to areas of the city that aren’t close to the library, especially schools and parks for the kids or for seniors who don’t have good transportation,” said Patricia Cirone, 57, director of the Beverly Public Library.

The current bookmobile made its first run in 1987 and has been delivering books ever since. Its predicted span of operation was only about 10 to 12 years, but now having nearly doubled that expectation, the bookmobile is finally ready for retirement. With no working heat in the winter and parts that are literally falling off, Linda Caravaggio, 57, the bookmobile librarian, couldn’t be more excited for her new ride.

“I’m looking forward to having heat,” said Caravaggio. “And not being all wrapped up in three or four layers of clothes.”

Having lived in Beverly since 1988, Caravaggio has been the bookmobile librarian for 23 years. She works Monday through Thursday from 9:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. on a two-week rotation of scheduled stops.

“Linda is wonderful. I don’t know how she does it,” said Martha Parmenter, a bookmobile patron of Turtle Creek Retirement Homes. “She drives the bus and remembers people’s names, which I admire, but she also remembers what books I’ve read and what I’d like to read.”

Three years ago, Cirone became aware of the bookmobile’s deterioration and began exploring ways to fund a new specialty vehicle to ensure the book delivery remained active. The bookmobile was too large of an expense for the town of Beverly to cover on its own so Cirone turned to fundraising.

Inside the Bookmobile!
“One of the reasons to get the new bookmobile is because it’s a heavily used service here in Beverly,” said Cirone. “We circulate more than 60,000 items per year out of the bookmobile, which is more than most small town libraries throughout Massachusetts.”

Cirone had originally planned to try and raise at least half the money by fundraising, but now as the new bookmobile nears completion, it turns out the community provided the entire cost of the vehicle.

From one senior citizen who gave two dollars every time the bookmobile came to her stop to a $50,000 donation from the Danvers Bank, said Cirone, “The response was so enormous that we never did have to turn to the city for the funds.”

The library is purchasing the bookmobile from Moroney Body Works in Worcester, MA. It will contain a similar interior design as the current vehicle, but with more shelf space. The major difference is that it will run on diesel instead of gasoline.

But aside from simply circulating books throughout Beverly, the bookmobile is a community experience, said Caravaggio, providing a venue for folks to come together.

“It’s almost like a community center because neighbors who don’t normally see each other have the chance to get together and talk on the bookmobile,” she said.

As Caravaggio made her Wednesday afternoon stop at Turtle Creek Community Retirements Homes, some people came out to return and pick up books while others just stopped to say hello. She also made trips inside to deliver books and talk with friends.

“We’re very grateful to everyone who’s given their time and their money for our new bookmobile,” said Caravaggio, who says she’s looking forward to the March 19 celebration.

For more information on the new bookmobile and the March 19 celebration call the Beverly Public library at 978-921-6062.


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