By ERIN ROLL
When library director Peter Coyl was in college he proudly commandeered a bookmobile. It’s sort of a family affair, as he followed in his grandmother’s footsteps. She had driven the bookmobile in a rural part of South Carolina. For years, bookmobiles brought the library to residents who couldn’t make it to the physical building.
Now, the Montclair Public Library will be instituting a new version of the bookmobile — the eTuk.
While the bookmobiles of the past where the size of a bus, the eTuk is a three-wheeled vehicle that can easily be “tucked” into a space.
The mobile library has not yet gone into service. But when it does, it will be making the rounds at the farmer’s market, National Night Out, the YMCA’s summer camps, the town pools and senior centers.
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The eTuk cost $30,000, and was paid for through the Montclair Public Library Foundation’s fundraising efforts. The foundation also applied to the Montclair Rotary Foundation for a $1,000 grant to buy books to keep the eTuk stocked.
Coyl, who drove a bookmobile for the Rochester Hills Public Library system in Michigan while he was a student at Oakland University, knows how important it is to find ways to get books to readers.
Although Montclair is only six square miles, it can still be difficult for children to get to the library if they do not live within walking distance of a library, Coyl said. There is no public transportation that easily allows children to get from one part of town to the other, and if their parents or guardians are at work, children may not have access to transportation.
The eTuk is part of the library’s ongoing efforts to make the library more accessible to patrons, especially children.
The books will range from children’s picture books to YA novels and popular fiction and nonfiction for adults. Patrons can pick out a book from the eTuk with their library card, and the library staff will scan it using a tablet. However, if a patron wants a book that is not in the eTuk they will have to visit the library’s physical location, and patrons can not return books to the eTuk.
Nor will the eTuk deliver hold materials or interlibrary loan materials. Part of that reason is that the eTuk will not be making visits on a fixed schedule, at least for the foreseeable future, Coyl said.
In a town like Montclair, Coyl said, it would be difficult to find a parking space for a traditional bus-sized bookmobile. The eTuk is roughly 13 feet long and just over six feet tall.
The library had a pedal cart that it used to bring books to locations around Montclair. But the pedal cart is starting to show wear and tear, and the bike is not always practical to use on hilly streets.
The vehicle can travel at speeds up to 45 miles per hour. It has two compartments, one on either side, each containing six bookshelves.
The library noticed that the Montclair Bread Company had an eTuk, which it uses for deliveries and for food service at special events. The library inquired about the bakery’s vehicle and discovered the Colorado-based company where it was assembled. The eTuk was shipped cross-country on a semi.
In June, the library eliminated also late fines, citing findings that the fines do not generate much revenue, while deterring people from using the library.