By Ron Hayes
The Palm Beach County Bookmobile arrived promptly at 1 p.m. Nov. 8, for its debut appearance at Ocean Ridge Town Hall.
Police Chief Chris Yannuzzi himself came outside to guide the snorting behemoth around the traffic circle to a comfortable spot beyond the parking spaces.
Outreach Librarian Ron Glass set up the orange traffic cones.
Library Associate Patricia Lane booted up her circulation laptop.
And they waited.
“I always target the municipalities that pay the county library tax but don’t have a physical branch facility,” Glass explained. “Usually that’s the smaller towns along the coast or inland.”
Lake Clarke Shores is a stop. Palm Beach Shores Town Hall. Juno Beach Town Hall.
Of the bookmobile’s 43 stops, South Palm Beach Town Hall is the busiest.
And now, Ocean Ridge.
Every other Friday for at least the next year, the bookmobile will stop by from 1-1:45 p.m.
“Every six months, we evaluate the schedule by the number of visitors and items checked out. We need an average of 15 checkouts per visit to continue after a year,” Glass said while he waited for a first visitor.
One stop that didn’t make the cut was Ocean Cay Park in Juno Beach.
“I sent about 100 fliers out to all the local housing associations and condos, but it just never took off,” he said.
The collection totals about 3,000 items, of which half are onboard the 44-foot bookmobile at any one time: books, both regular and large-print, plus audio books, music CDs and DVDs.
The selection is not voluminous, but it’s varied. Glass can order up to 800 items a month, and as the librarians become familiar with borrowers’ tastes, they try to provide more personalized service.
“Our clients tend to like romance, mysteries and biography,” he said. “I have no idea why, but Stephen King doesn’t do well on the bookmobile. People like John Grisham, Danielle Steel and, of course, James Patterson.”
To have an item delivered to the bookmobile, simply call 649-5476 or go online at pbclibrary.org and order using your library card PIN. If you don’t have a card, bring your driver license, voter registration or utility bill and they’ll give you one.
“Most items arrive within two weeks at the latest,” Glass said, “as long as it’s not a new book that a lot of people have reserved.”
Anyone with a county library card can drop by and check out items.
“I have a woman who orders nothing but audio books,” he said. “She lives in Pahokee and commutes to work in South Palm Beach.”
And they waited.
After perhaps 15 minutes, an older gentleman stuck his head in the door.
“How long you going to be here?” he asked.
“I’ll be back.”
He didn’t come back, and no one else showed up, either.
Glass and Lane waited until 1:50 p.m., then put the traffic cones and laptop away.
They left with the same 1,500 items on board when they arrived. But they were not discouraged.
“Our goal is to promote this service,” Glass said, “so we’re not going to just sit here. We’ll put a sandwich board out by the road next time, and I’ll send out some fliers.
“It’ll pick up in season.”
In fact, it picked up the next time the bookmobile was in town.
On Nov. 22, Deputy Clerk Jean Hallahan slipped away from her desk long enough to check out Eight Days To Live, a thriller, and The Man From Stone Creek, a Western romance.
And then Officer Nubia Savino from the Police Department showed up.
“Do you have any vampire books?” she asked as she skimmed the shelves. “I like vampires, werewolves and romance.”
She settled on a fantasy called The Gate Thief, by Orson Scott Card.