Press Releases

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: 7/28/22

A brightly-colored van decorated with bars (books) and a map. A person in sunglasses leans in front

Watertown’s “Speed Reader” Bookmobile is Ready to Roll

[WATERTOWN] “The Library has left the building.” That’s the catchphrase that Outreach Librarian Marissa Monteiro keeps coming back to when describing her new ride, the Watertown Free Public Library (WFPL) Bookmobile. “It really is a full-service library on wheels,” she beams, leaning against the colorful, wrapped Sprinter Van. “You can borrow books, connect to Wi-Fi, or sign up for a class. The main difference is—now the Library will be even closer to the places our community hangs out.”

To that point, Watertown’s brand-new bookmobile will debut at the 2nd-annual Watertown Arts Market at Arsenal Park on Saturday, August 13. Organized by the Watertown Public Arts and Culture Committee, the Arts Market is free annual event that draws hundreds – and that’s exactly where Monteiro wants to be. Right in the middle of everything, spreading the word about free library materials and services.

Bringing bookmobile service to Watertown was a longtime dream of Library Director Caitlin Browne and former Director Leone Cole. “Though we are a well-loved library, we know there are many residents who don’t or can’t use our services,” explains Browne. “Rather than trying to convince those people to come to us—for materials, classes, or simple human connection—we want to meet them where they are. The Bookmobile allows us to better serve people who, for a variety of reasons, are not coming into our building.” 

After years of planning, Browne and Cole’s dream of bookmobile service is finally coming to fruition. It was a team effort. The purchase of a custom Sprinter Van was made possible through the generosity of many individual donors and funding from the Library Building Committee. Monteiro’s position was created in 2021.

In rolling out their new “Speed Reader,” WFPL picks up the mantle of a long tradition. For centuries, intrepid librarians have been retrofitting carriages, wagons, cars, and busses to carry books and resources out to people who need them. In the mid-20th century, bookmobile service gained popularity across the United States. Do you remember visiting a bookmobile as a kid? You may recognize some of the vintage bookmobiles from the Boston Public Library, Newton Free Library, or the Waltham Public Library, archived in the State’s Digital Commonwealth Photograph Collection.

Today, bookmobiles deliver more than Library books. As librarians look for new and creative ways to serve marginalized populations, bookmobiles make it easier to deliver community programming, share essential information and resources, and extend internet connectivity beyond a library building’s physical walls.

Monteiro, who speaks English, Spanish, and Portuguese, is excited to find people who are unfamiliar with the Library and show them everything it has to offer. “We know that there are community members who still don’t think our Library is meant for them,” she explains. “Maybe that’s due to a language barrier, maybe they can’t get a ride to Main Street, or maybe they just don’t know what we offer. Now I get to drive around and be their friend on the inside. I get feel like Oprah saying, ‘You get a library card, and you get a library card, and YOU get a library card!’”

In her first months on the road, Monteiro is planning to take the Bookmobile to schools, parks, residential areas, and community events. She is very open to suggestions. “The whole point of this service is to meet people where they are. I’m asking Watertown, please let me know where you want the bookmobile to go! It’s yours, after all.”

Do you want to bring the Bookmobile to your neighborhood? Please keep in mind that ample parking space is required. The bookmobile cannot offer service on narrow streets, sidewalks, hills, or anywhere beyond Watertown city limits. For more information or to request a visit, head to watertownlib.org/bookmobile

About WFPL: The Watertown Free Public Library provides access to a wide variety of popular materials, resources, services, and programs that fulfill the informational, cultural, and recreational needs of Watertown and surrounding communities. Our Library works to create an environment that attracts and welcomes users of all ages and abilities. For more, visit watertownlib.org.


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