The McCracken County Public Library plans to expand its outreach services through a bookmobile that will travel around the county, starting in 2020. It has already tapped a coordinator for the new initiative.

"Kentucky has one of the most storied and strongest histories of bookmobile service of any state in the country," library director Susan Baier said. "When I first got here in 2017, I thought it was a real opportunity for growth for us. I think we're an excellent library and we're one location in a county that is quite large geographically, and there are obstacles and barriers for people to sometimes come physically to our building."

Baier anticipates an April 2020 launch for the "Brary Bus" -- referencing the library's story time mascot, Brary -- and the library is currently working on procuring a bookmobile. It has set aside $75,000 for the launch, which includes the vehicle, shelving and graphic wrap, while Paducah resident Lesley Garrett will serve as bookmobile coordinator.

The library plans for the bookmobile to do different routes in the county and make stops at designated places at certain times, where patrons can visit and check out materials. It's an expansion of existing outreach services, such as the "Brary Bike" that is used in the community.

"We have a staff member who visits about 10 nursing homes or assisted living facilities a month," Baier said. "She is delivering books there and doing programming, and she does it in her personal vehicle. She is retiring in a month or so, so (Garrett) will be taking over her duties, and then some, because we're evolving that existing position into the bookmobile coordinator."

The bookmobile will offer the usual materials for patrons, including books and DVDs, but Baier sees potential for other creative options, too, such as STEM and coding programming or "mini popup computer labs."

"That's all on the table with this kind of delivery service," she said.

It's an exciting initiative for Baier, who explained that a bookmobile was on her library director bucket list to bring to the community. To her knowledge, the library hasn't had this service since the early 1980s.

"We'd like to see an increase in the number of people holding library cards," she said, noting last fiscal year reported 46,811 people with cards. "We'd like to see an increase in the amount of items checked out annually, and we'd like to see an increased amount of community partnerships as well."

Meanwhile, it's a "dream" position for Garrett.

Garrett said she has worked at the library off and on and spent time in community organizing, so the bookmobile coordinator job checks some boxes for her. She's set to start in a few weeks.

"Being able to do the outreach and reach people who don't have the time to make it in because they're working so much or some other accessibility reasons -- it's really close to me and it's an honor to be able to serve in that way," she said.

There are still several months before the bookmobile is expected to hit the road, but McCracken County residents are encouraged to offer suggestions on where they think it should go.

Baier said the library would love community input and she is "all ears." She can be reached by email (sbaier@mclib.net) or through the library's Facebook page.

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