Maui is fortunate to have a bookmobile that reaches people who would otherwise have a difficult time visiting the library. We are also fortunate to have librarian Jessica Gleason running the program. In accepting the job as the bookmobile librarian, Gleason needed to give up one of the plum librarian jobs in the state, that as head librarian of the wonderful Kihei Library. But in her words, “… the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to manage a brand new bookmobile was too hard to pass up. I didn’t expect to get the job, but was very happy to be given the chance!”
Of course being a librarian, Gleason is an avid reader. One of her favorite books growing up was Madeleine L’Engle’s A Wrinkle in Time. She recently finished My Beloved World by Sonia Sotomayor, which she found inspirational, refreshing and hopeful.
Gleason, born and raised on Maui, is the mother of twin 3 ½ year olds and has lived here all her life.
To celebrate National Bookmobile Day, we shared an e-mail exchange with her about the bookmobile…
Good morning Jessica! Let’s start at the beginning. How long has the bookmobile been in service on Maui and how was it funded?
The bookmobile has been in service since September, 2016. The custom vehicle was purchased by the Maui Friends of the Library (MFOL) and gifted to the Hawaii State Public Library System (HSPLS). MFOL also worked with HSPLS to lobby the legislature to fund a Bookmobile Librarian position (quite a feat!). There hadn’t been a Bookmobile Librarian in over 20 years (since the last librarian retired and the position was eliminated during another round of budget cuts).
Why does Maui need a bookmobile?
The mission of the bookmobile is to bring library services to people who encounter barriers (geographic, socio-economic, physical, even psychological) to traditional library service (visiting a bricks and mortar library). We serve: seniors who have difficulty finding transportation to libraries; inmates of the Maui Community Correctional Facility; preschools who have limited resources to visit libraries; public, private, and charter schools who either don’t have a functioning library or want to facilitate their students’ access to public library materials and services; and youth centers where children and young adults go after school. All of these populations may encounter challenges to visiting and using a public library and the outreach we do helps to educate the public about what public libraries offer, brings services to those who can’t or won’t visit a public library, and hopefully encourage all members of our community, keiki to kupuna, to take advantage of what the public library has to offer. We are ambassadors for the public library system.
How many communities do you visit? How many days a week are you on the road?
The bookmobile visits Haʻikū, Pukalani, Makawao, Pāʻia, Kahului, Wailuku, Paukūkalo, Napili, Lahaina, and Kīhei. We are on the road 4 days a week (sometimes 5 if we are making up missed visits due to holidays or special events). The majority of locations are preschools, followed by schools, and senior and low-income housing. We also visit community centers and youth centers as well as the correctional facility.
What are the additional challenges of working in a bookmobile vs. a standard library?
The frequent traveling is unexpectedly draining (and I’m just along for the ride). Our driver, Michael Tinker, and I do all the scheduling, checking items in and out, managing reserves, and shelving ourselves. Tinker also maintains the bookmobile and keeps it clean and safe for operation. I do the collection development, reference, and other managerial duties (much like a larger branch, but on a micro scale). Essentially, we run a small, mobile branch with just two people (and some added help from Wailuku staff with processing and mending library material). It is highly efficient considering our circulation statistics and cost of operation.
How is being a bookmobile librarian rewarding?
I am fortunate to be part of a long tradition of bookmobile service on Maui. The rewards are intangible and unmeasurable. The hugs and smiles from our youngest patrons; gifts of artwork from preschoolers; seeing a boy and his dad come aboard with a Lego replica of the bookmobile; and watching people light up when they see us drive by– these are all reasons I feel honored to be a Bookmobile Librarian. It truly is a privilege and I hope to ride with the Holoholo Bookmobile for many years to come!
Thanks again to Jessica Gleason for taking the time to meet with us. The Maui bookmobile’s schedule is available online on the official website.
Library cards are free for residents. Visitors can pay $10 for a three-month temporary card. With a library card, you have free access to wi-fi and computers and of course, all the books you can read. One perk for visitors is the ability to print out maps, directions and boarding passes for just 15 cents a page. And don’t forget, the libraries are stocked with Maui travel guides. No need to purchase a bulky guide, only to leave it in your room when you leave!