Tulare County to book mobile library

Board of Supervisors approve another $50K toward purchase of a new literacy vehicle

By Jermaine Johnson II

TULARE COUNTY –Residents in rural neighborhoods will soon have more access to the resources at the Tulare County library. 

On March 17, the Tulare County Board of Supervisors approved an extra $50,000 towards the purchase of a library and literacy vehicle. That amount is in addition to the $130,000 that was approved in July 2019, since the cost of the vehicle has gone up since then. 

“There are many places within the foothills or other outlying areas of the county where there are no library or literacy services that desperately need these services,” county librarian Darla Wegener said, referring to remote small towns, farm labor camps and unincorporated communities. “It is vital that adult literacy, family literacy, early childhood literacy, citizenship, English as a second language, and GED/high school diploma tutoring as well as library and Internet services be available to every resident in a county that is both very diverse and under-served due to economics and the vast distance between the larger cities and the smaller outlying towns and communities.”

The vehicle will be a Mercedes-Benz Sprinter, similar to the vans used by Amazon. They will be stationed in several different rural communities each day for a few hours, enough time to provide tutoring sessions as well as adult/family literacy programs. Families could also place books on hold from school or work computers or their phones, and then pick up the books when the van arrives in their community.

Unlike bookmobiles, which are often the size of an RV, the mobile library will be a van that is “big enough to hold books, resources and minimal staff but small enough so that any staff member can navigate country and mountainous roadways to reach the most rural areas of Tulare County.”

The van will also be a Mobile Wi-Fi hotspot providing internet access for residents who might not otherwise have access to online library/literacy services due to the remoteness of their community. The vehicle could also assist with outreach efforts at community events, schools, etc.

“This project will address established needs by providing not only library and literacy services, but also educational, language, citizenship, employment seeking and community services to a portion of the Tulare County that would otherwise go without them,” Wegener said. “It would also introduce library and literacy services to low income and in need families that do not have transportation, means or resources to seek them out on their own.”

In her report, Wegener said the county library plans to partner with Tulare County Health and Human Services, Tulare County Mental Health Services, Community Services and Employment Training (CSET), Proteus, SEE Co., Tulare County Office of Education, Kings/Tulare Homeless Alliance, Tulare County Adult Schools, College of the Sequoias, and Porterville College to identify patrons in need of services and without transportation as well as living in small rural areas where no services are available.

The board will be working with Farber Specialty Vehicles in Columbus, Ohio to design the van. Unless there are delays in the process, the board hopes to have the vehicle in September and then they’ll have it on display during different events.

Start typing and press Enter to search