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Traveling Magic

Updated: Oct 18, 2021

What is special about a bus driving around with books? Pretty much everything.

If someone were to ask me what the most comforting memories of my childhood were, the bookmobile would be right up there at the top. There are few memories where you can shut your eyes and feel like you are there, like it was yesterday.

I vividly remember sitting on the carpeted floor of the bookmobile looking through the children’s books that were piled along the floor when the shelves were full. I can feel the rumble of the motor idling in park through the bus floor, the heat of a hot summer day blazing through the open and shutting of the door, and the pitter patter chatter of “the bookmobile ladies” talking with my mom about the most recent book they recommend she read.

On a hot summer day I would find refuge in the mini library and step down out of the bookmobile with great satisfaction as I balanced a wobbly tower of books in my arms. From the age of about nine to fifteen, if I didn’t have a friend available to play, I had tired of the backyard, or I was avoiding my chores, I often spent a lazy afternoon on our front porch glider sipping lemonade and turning the pages of a much anticipated book.

When I failed at a math test, was left out at recess, or felt anxious and worried, the characters of a book were my best friend. Their story was my temporary life experience and connection to a bigger and more magical view of life. To me, the bookmobile IS traveling magic. It brings magic right to your doorstep by transporting you to a different time and place as soon as you open a book.

Cleaning out a box in my basement recently, I found a notebook where I actually document all of the books that I read in one summer. Not necessarily the coolest kid on my block, but I have to believe that this chapter of my life has served me well. It was a toss-up for me if I would be a detective or a writer when I grew up, due to my Nancy Drew obsession. I like to think I am good at uncovering mysteries, but I never did find that secret passageway I was certain was in my house. I have, however, always found a way to write throughout my career, which I am thankful. If I had not been an avid reader, I do not believe it would have sparked the writing bug that I have carried with me throughout my life in some fashion or another.

The Quincy Public Library asked me to share my thoughts on the bookmobile as they prepare for their campaign to bring back the bookmobile, which was discontinued in the early 2000’s. In addition to my own personal nostalgia, there are so many reasons that this service is a wonderful thing to bring to the community.

Not everyone is lucky enough to have parents that share their joy of reading. Reading is a learned behavior. I find a complete calm reading a book because I saw my mom read throughout my childhood. I love reading to my kids because I will never forget my Dad having a laughing fit reading me a the infamous chapter in a Judy Blume book where the dog, named Turtle, swallows the pet turtle. The bookmobile reaches kids that have never had books to read at home and gives them the encouragement they might not have received.

This bookmobile will have all kinds of bells and whistles that were not available when I was a kid. This mobile library is so much more than just bringing books to the neighborhood, with capabilities to have audio and visual presentations to share the love of learning in so many different ways.

And lastly, the bookmobile reinstates that there is more to life than staring at a screen. Scientific studies show that our brains take in information on a written page differently than in a digital format. These findings tell me that nothing can replace the simple pleasures of a book, or the endless opportunities a little bus, called the bookmobile, can provide a community.

A picture my mother drew from a photo my father took of her reading to me as a child.

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