Mobile library a Tardis for readers
With its distinctive Louth County Council livery, the mobile library is a familiar sight on the highways and byways of the county and now it's bringing books, DVDs and CDs to even more places,
The introduction of a new schedule this summer means the mobile library now visits seventeen new stops, and is on the road for an extra eight hours each fortnight.
One of these new stops is Gort na Mara, an attractive new housing development off Seafield Road, Blackrock.
The mobile library, or 'bus' as the staff call it, is paying its second visit to the estate and the Campbell family are there to sign up.
Mum Christine is delighted that the library is bringing the service to their doorstep.
She explains that eleven year old Hannáh, who attends St Brigid's School in Dundalk, is learning to read.
'It's great that it's coming here now as it saves us having to go into town. It's fantastic that it's right here on our doorstep.'
'Hannáh is keeping a visual scrap book over the summer, so this morning we'll sit down and read the books she has taken out and she will fill in her diary,' says Christine.
'The variety of books which they have here for Hannáh is great,' she says.
Her other daughter, eight year old Klia, a pupil of nearby St Francis NS in Blackrock, has also selected her books. 'She loves to read,' says Christine.
'We will definitely be using the service a lot. It's wonderful that it will be pulling up outside our door.'
The mobile library is operated by librarian John Murphy and driver assistant Lorcan Hughes.
'We make 56 stops in a fortnight, going all over the county, from country roads to towns, from nursing homes to creches,' explains John.
The Library Service recently invested €6,000 on renewing the book stock on the Mobile Library, with more to be added soon.
'It's like a Tardis in here,' says John, pointing to the shelves laden with books for all ages, including fiction, non-fiction, large print editions, dvds, cds and audio books.
'We have members aged 6 to 96 and the membership card allows them to borrow twelve items at a time for three weeks and can also be used in the branch libraries in Dundalk, Drogheda, Ardee, Dunleer, Carlingford and DkIT.'
Over the years, John has got to know the regular users and considers them friends.
'I love being out in the 'bus',' he says. 'You are getting out, meeting people, getting to know people, getting to know their likes and dislikes. You get to know the customers and over the years can build up a good relationship and become friends.'
He knows which customers go to the different stops on each of the routes and makes sure he has books or DVDs which they will like. He knows who likes westerns or romances, who is into rock music and makes sure that they have the latest David Williams' titles for young readers.
'Because we're linked to libraries across the country, we can order books from any part of the country so we can get what people want.'
While some local authorities axed their mobile library during the recession, John says that Louth County Council's mobile library continued to provide a valued service to the community.
'People really appreciated the service and looked on it as a valuable resource. I think the library service going to their own step was sign that the Council cared.'
Young readers availing of the mobile library service can take part in the Summer Stars challenge designed to get young people reading on a regular basis.
Children are invited to register for the challenge and are will be given a reading card to record and track their own progress. The challenge aimed at children from 4 years and up is to read 8 or more books over the summer. There are rewards and incentives along the way books in total with a grand finale event at the end for all participants.
There's a even a website dedicated to the programme, www.summerstars.ie with lots of online games and activities as well as animated ebooks.
There's also a children's discussion group and interviews with well known people about their favourite books.
There are also helpful tips for reading and a list of recommended book for different age groups which can be borrowed from local libraries including the mobile library.