‘Driven to read’; Iron County Bookmobile back on the road

ENOCH — After being shut down for nearly three months due to COVID-19 restrictions, the Iron County Bookmobile is back in operation.

Monday was the bookmobile’s soft opening, with librarian Pat Tompkins driving out to the western portion of the county where around 25 patrons were able to check out books and materials.

One person in Beryl Junction even returned a book that was more than a little overdue, Tompkins said, noting that the well-worn copy of “Tales from the Crypt: Class Trip” had a bar code format that hasn’t been used since 2001, meaning it was last checked out at least 19 years ago. No fine was charged, Tompkins said with a chuckle.

Tuesday, the bookmobile made scheduled stops in Enoch, Kanarraville and Hamilton Fort.

Tompkins told Cedar City News Tuesday the term “soft opening” means that some restrictions remain in place, such as the fact that patrons are not allowed to go inside the bookmobile vehicle to browse for books; instead, she will need to retrieve the desired items herself and bring them to the side door. 

“I’ll go back and forth as many times as I need to just to make sure everyone gets what they want,” Tompkins said.

Librarian Pat Tompkins holds up a copy of a “Tales from the Crypt” book returned by a Beryl resident to Iron County Bookmobile on June 1, 2020 after at being checked out for at least 19 years. Photo taken in Enoch, Utah, June 2, 2002 | Photo by Jeff Richards, St. George News / Cedar City News

Additionally, all returned items will be quarantined for three days before being made available for checkout again.

Also as part of the safety protocol, patrons are asked to wear face masks and follow social distancing guidelines when picking up materials.

The bookmobile, a large Winnebago emblazoned with the motto “Driven to Read” is stocked with more than 5,000 items, including various books for all ages, DVDs, books on CD and other audiobooks.

“You can also download electronic books through the state library website,” Tompkins said, adding that the vehicle also has its own free public Wi-Fi available. 

Tompkins, who has been Iron County Bookmobile’s librarian for the past nine years, said she is always more than happy to provide specific suggestions to patrons looking for something good to read.

However, one of her favorite suggestions involves a bit of randomness. Called “a blind date with a book,” the procedure allows patrons to check out a wrapped-up book without knowing its author or title beforehand. Only a few scant clues are written on the outer wrapping. 

“Quite a few people end up telling me they liked their blind date book,” she said, adding that she often includes the initial books of certain series on the “blind date” shelf in hopes that readers will want to read further installments.

Iron County’s bookmobile, one of six currently operating in mostly rural areas throughout Utah, is an extension of the Utah State Library system, Tompkins said, noting that the service has been a fixture in Iron County for more than 50 years.

Iron County Bookmobile parked at its headquarters at Old School Library, Enoch, Utah, June 2, 2020 | Photo by Jeff Richards, St. George News / Cedar City News

The Iron County Commission recently approved the renewal of its annual bookmobile agreement with the Utah State Library Division, allocating $130,000 to continue the service through June 30, 2021.

“We really appreciate the county commissioners’ ongoing support,” Tompkins said. “Without them, we wouldn’t have bookmobile service here in Iron County.”

The bookmobile follows a rotating two-week schedule that includes stops at remote and sparsely populated areas, in addition to other underserved areas, including senior centers and youth treatment facilities. Its hourlong stop at Enoch Elementary every Thursday starting at noon is meant to coincide with the free summer lunch program, Tompkins said. Click here to see the flyer detailing bookmobile’s full summer schedule.

The bookmobile is headquartered in Enoch at the Old School Library building at 4763 N. Santa Fe Trail, adjacent to the Enoch City offices. Tompkins said that although many books and other materials are kept in the building and available for checkout, the library is essentially a repository for and an extension of the bookmobile service, rather than the other way around.

Although the library building in Enoch is also closed to the public due to coronavirus-related restrictions, technician Laurie Rigby is available to retrieve desired materials from the shelves and bring them to patrons at the door, just as Tompkins has been doing in the bookmobile.

Any resident of Iron County can obtain a free state library card to check out bookmobile materials.

The bookmobile and its library operate four days a week (Monday through Thursday). They are closed on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays, along with state and federal holidays. See schedule for hours of operation. Additionally, summer reading programs are kicking off for both kids and adults, with prize incentives. For more information, visit the bookmobile’s website or Facebook page.

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Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2020, all rights reserved.

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