Dottie 2 draws a crowd

By Kim Howard
Observer staff

The recorded trumpet call that echoed through Brennan Woods and Pleasant Acres neighborhoods Tuesday night announced not the start of a horse race but the arrival of a different kind of horsepower: Dottie 2, the Dorothy Alling Library bookmobile.

A bookmobile holiday last week for the Fourth of July got some families out of practice for this week’s return of the service. The Varricchione family had been eating dinner when the trumpet call came.

“They jumped down from dinner today and ran over!” Glenn Varricchione said of his three children perusing the books on the bus.

Though some were caught off guard, kids and parents biked, walked and ran Tuesday night to the bus that can carry about 800 children’s and young adult books.

The bookmobile, driven by library staff, allows patrons to check out and return books on board Tuesday through Thursday evenings weekly during the summer months. The bookmobile visits 10 neighborhoods, with South Ridge and Pleasant Acres being the busiest stops, according to Aislinn LaCroix, bookmobile assistant. Patrons don’t have to be residents of a particular neighborhood to come aboard.

Children and teens may choose from categories like easy readers and picture books, mysteries and sports, fiction and young adult. Youth services librarian Jill Coffrin said graphic novels – books that tell stories through illustrated characters – and non-fiction are most popular.

Zachary Varricchione, 7, selected two Junie B. Jones titles Tuesday night.

“It has so many good books we can read and look at,” Zachary said after getting off the bookmobile. The service is great, he said, because “you can wait at home and you don’t need to get in the car and pack everything up. You can just wait for the bus to drive in.”

Abby Veronneau, who had four children who boarded the bus to return and pick up new books Tuesday night, said she thinks the bookmobile influences her children’s reading habits.

“I find they like to read more,” Veronneau said. “I think they enjoy seeing the woman that works on the bus. It’s like an ice cream truck, but it’s a bookmobile.”

Keeping up reading habits during the summer is in part what the bookmobile is all about, according to Jill Coffrin, youth services librarian and Dottie 2 driver on Tuesday night.

“Bookmobiles are meant to reach people who don’t traditionally go to the library,” Coffrin said of national bookmobile trends. Williston’s bookmobile visits local schools before summer starts to get kids excited about it, Coffrin said.

LaCroix, the Champlain Valley Union High School student who assists each night the bookmobile runs, said when kids aren’t in school, too often their focus is videos, games and television.

“Most of my friends don’t read at all,” LaCroix said.

The bookmobile service may help to break what LaCroix sees as a trend among her peers. Circulation of bookmobile books has been climbing according to data provided by library staff. In 2001, for example, 552 books were checked out of the bookmobile. Last year 1,311 books were checked out.

Regulars of the bookmobile have found two major improvements this year: the retrofitted retired mini school bus is new to the library, providing more space; and thanks to the effort of a CVU High School student graduation challenge project, the book check-out process is now automated.