MARTINS FERRY — Based at the Martins Ferry Public Library, the Belmont County Bookmobile has been in operation since 1938.
Beginning with a small-panel truck that could only operate in most ideal weather conditions, the program has been a blessing for residents of Belmont County.
The Bookmobile makes 40 steps every two weeks, dividing Belmont County into four sections and returning to each stop once every other week.
And during the winter months, it’s importance grown ten-fold.
From the young to the elderly, the colder temperatures and threat of snow generally keeps residents inside their homes unless a trip out into the world is warranted.
When the weather is 20 degrees or lower, it’s hard to convince yourself to venture out into the cold if the only stop on your itinerary is a trip to the local library.
There are also members of the senior community that, for various reasons, are unable to leave their homes. Maybe they are unable to drive. Maybe they can’t find a friend or relative to provide transportation. And maybe, they just don’t want to endure the arctic-style temperatures.
That’s where the bookmobile comes in.
‘‘We have a lot of retired, elderly residents that are regular readers,’’ said Martins Ferry Public Library director Yvonne Myers.
‘‘We go to schools as well, but a lot of our patrons are seniors. They usually don’t have transportation anymore to make it to the library. So we bring it to them.’’
The various senior centers strung throughout the county generally have their own libraries, ranging from decently stocked to the extensive selection at the Centerville Senior Center.
But what if you’ve read everything at the senior center that you’d consider interesting? Or what if you are unable to make it to the center at all?
It’s questions like those that makes the Bookmobile such an invaluable service.
‘‘I have one elderly lady on one of the routes, that every two weeks, she’s ready for 20-25 more books,’’ said Mike Crecion, one of the Bookmobile’s drivers.
‘‘We have some voracious readers.’’
The ample space inside the Bookmobile offers the opportunity for an array of literature to be offered. Books are separated by category and arranged in order.
There is a section for new releases, as well as DVDs to be viewed.
There is usually enough time at each stop for patrons to board the bus and search for their favorite author or genre.
But even that isn’t convenient for some people.
‘‘The drivers are always bringing new material on the mobile,’’ Myers said. ‘‘Once they get to know the customers and know what they like, it makes it easier to bring a selection that will be to their liking.
‘‘Some people will make a list of authors they the drivers will bring books based off that list.’’
Crecion says some members will let him know either a particular author or genre of books they are interested in, and he will compile a list of potential interesting reads and be sure to bring them along for the residents to enjoy.
For some of the more avid readers on his routes, Crecion actually uses a spreadsheet to ensure that duplicate selections are not brought.
The best part is the Bookmobile operates in the same fashion as the library in that if a book isn’t currently available, the staff will place it on order from another location to ensure that it soon will be.
‘‘We do get a lot of things from other libraries,’’ Myers said. ‘‘You can go online to our website and request it that way. Most people don’t do that yet, but there are a few.
‘‘We are very flexible in being able to get what you want.’’
For more information on the Bookmobile or the Martins Ferry Public Library, call (740) 633-0314.
Hughes may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
PICTURED IS the inside of the Belmont County Bookmobile. The bus has an extensive mobile selection of books and DVDs, including newly released books.