Most people think of a bookmobile as a traveling library that shows up in neighborhoods. There’s a different kind of bookmobile at the Olympia Timberland Library — it stays in one place and the kids come to it.
On a recent rainy morning, the back bench of the bookmobile was occupied by 3-year-old Eowyn Forbes-Lorman and her grandfather, Jim Lorman. After a while, grandmother Anne Forbes took over the reading, and Mina Griffin, wearing her favorite unicorn dress, joined them. Other children tried out the steering wheels, which work, and the horn, which doesn’t.
Mina’s grandmother, Barbara LaForge of Olympia, said Mina loves books and comes every two weeks to check out more.
“She loves to be read to, so the library is a good place for her,” LaForge said.
Children’s librarian Mary Rulewicz had seen examples of similar bookmobiles in other libraries and brought the idea to woodworker Jay T. Scott.
The bookmobile was a joint project by Scott, signmaker Ira Coyne, and artist and author Nikki McClure, all of Olympia. McClure created a design of otters for the back, and the front “fenders” are inscribed with “You Otter Be Reading.” Vince Ryland helped with the painting.
Scott designed the bookmobile to be modular, so it would be easy to move and would fit through the library’s doors.
“I wanted something durable and well-made that would last a long, long time,” Rulewicz said. “I shopped around for similar products and they were cost prohibitive, and in my opinion, not nearly as well-made.”
The Timberland Regional Library District allocated funds to refresh the children’s area of all the branch libraries. Olympia paid about $2,800 for the bookmobile, Rulewicz said. Scott said much of the labor was donated.
“It was really a fun process because it was so creative,” Scott said. Scott was inspired by memories of his son, who spent a lot of time at the library as a young boy.
“I always appreciated how he liked little cozy places to sit and read,” Scott said. Although adults can fit into the bookmobile, Scott said it was important that it be sized for children.
“Little kids love small spaces,” he said.
Not only is the bookmobile small, the space for it was limited.
“We only had a very little bit of space to work with. I wanted to create where two to three kids could gather and sit and read,” he said. “There had to be two steering wheels, places where people could use the space in different ways.”
Scott and McClure are married, making the collaboration easy.
The frolicking otters on the back of the vehicle continue the tradition of the otter family sculpture by Tony Angell in the atrium, and the otters incorporated in the library’s sign, painted by Coyne.
“The thing I love about Olympia is this willingness of people to collaborate, especially in service of our community. I feel so proud to be part of that,” Scott said.
And the bookmobile appears to be a hit with its target audience.
“It’s really sweet the way it’s encouraging cooperative play, and new friendships form,” Rulewicz said.