New Wood County bookmobile takes a page from green technology

3/31/2010
BY JANET ROMAKER
BLADE STAFF WRITER
Looking for books and movies inside the new bookmobile in Northwood are, from front to back, Kaleigh Schroeder, K.J. Hardeman, and Prometheus Wright, all 11.
Looking for books and movies inside the new bookmobile in Northwood are, from front to back, Kaleigh Schroeder, K.J. Hardeman, and Prometheus Wright, all 11.

Pity the pigeon, but no way was a birdbrain going to get behind the wheel of the Wood County District Public Library's new bookmobile.

And no amount of "Let me drive" begging was going to change that, particularly when the place was packed with people who wanted to get a closer look at the state-of-the-art, stop-and-go library just after a ribbon-cutting ceremony at Eastpointe on the Mall in Northwood.

Bookmobile librarian John Powell thinned the crowd by suggesting younger patrons might want to participate in a reading program just outside the door.

Along a nearby sidewalk Janet Ergo-Zimmerman, outreach specialist, read aloud Don't Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus. As youngsters play-acted characters in the book, she improvised the ending: The bird was thinking about driving the new bookmobile (instead of a big rig) after missing the chance to drive the bus.

Just ahead of the bookmobile's inaugural visit, kids were pumped with excitement, and some stood in line waiting for the chance to be among the first to climb aboard, but it was Mr. Powell who exuded the highest level of enthusiasm.

Several children, most of them students in the Lake school district, noted reasons behind the bubbling with joy.

"It looks different," said 11-year-old K.J. Hardeman. "The old one looked really rundown."

Alicianna Toska, 10, and her sister Daniella, 9, agreed they just love the newfangled lights, slender streaks of white running along the ceiling.

Librarian John Powell assists students during a stop at Eastpointe on the Mall apartments in Northwood.
Librarian John Powell assists students during a stop at Eastpointe on the Mall apartments in Northwood.

Nick Mullins, 13, said the new bookmobile was organized better with an attention-grabbing selection of movies and books. He's a fan of reading rather than watching Hollywood films, and was searching for just the right book.

For many aboard, books were the big draw.

Mariah Ward, 9, sought out chapter books and mystery books while sister Skylar Evans, 5, was on the prowl for picture books.

Kaleigh Schroeder, 11, said the bookmobile is popular for children living at Eastpointe. "It's good because kids cannot go all the way to the library," she said, and K.J. added: "It takes an hour and a half to walk to Walbridge." That's the nearest library other than at their school, several said.

During the ribbon-cutting ceremony, cameras clicked as Mr. Powell told everyone to smile, and then he instructed the kids to "give it a snip."

Ribbon cut, he proclaimed, "Guess we're ready to start. C'mon in."

He handed out bookmarks made of green pieces of ribbon - snippets from the first ribbon-cutting in Bowling Green March 17 - attached to a green construction paper bookmobile.

Green was a theme by design.

Mr. Powell said the bookmobile is "the only one like it in the universe," and noted the new vehicle is a "green machine" that runs on natural gas.

Scott McEwen, library board trustee and project volunteer, and two other volunteers, Anthony Palumbo of Bowling Green State University's Electric Vehicle Institute and Steve McEwen, retired president and CEO of Henry Filters, researched and designed specifications that led to the custom-built bookmobile, according to library staff.

A special bank of batteries provides the electrical power needed at stops.

In the old bookmobile, a noisy generator powered the lights, and if the wind was blowing, fumes would drift inside, Mr. Powell said.

A full air suspension system enables the vehicle to "kneel" several inches to make it more accessible to patrons.

The bookmobile was paid for by a $95,000 grant and $100,000 raised by the library's foundation board.

The library has offered bookmobile service to Wood County residents since 1951. The old vehicle, purchased in 1986, had logged about 160,000 miles.

Additional ribbon-cutting events were conducted at Bradner, Levis Commons, and Eastpointe, the bookmobile's most popular spots. The bookmobile visits Eastpointe every two weeks.