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Pierce County Library shutting down bookmobile program
As of Aug. 31, Pierce County Library System’s Explorer Kids’ Bookmobile will stop serving schools. The Library’s family bookmobiles and Explorer Kids’ Bookmobile will stop visiting residential neighborhoods sometime in November.
The bookmobiles served low-income neighborhoods in central Pierce County—Frederickson, Graham, Waller, Midland, Summit, Parkland, Spanaway, Fife, and Lakewood.
But a service for 1 percent of the member population also represented a cost of $180,000 in gas, maintenance and employee wages, a bitter pill for the Board of Trustees to swallow when faced with a potential $3 million shortfall in the 2013 budget.
“Sadly we can no longer afford to run the bookmobiles,” said Executive Director Neel Parikh in a press release. “We are committed to getting books into the hands of children throughout our service area. We believe with this new way of delivering library service we will serve even more children than we did with the bookmobiles, which are aging and costly to operate, especially in today’s economy.”
A 'new way' of delivering library service is a phrase used several times in the release, which can be read here. But by the fourth paragraph, it becomes clear the wording is misleading. No new services will be introduced under this course of action.
"Many of (the bookmobile clients) also use libraries," the press release reads. "People that have been getting their books from bookmobiles may continue to get them in library buildings and online. The libraries offer trained librarians and staff to help people, more books and materials, computers and Wi-Fi."
From one perspective, this does offer a new way of service to former Bookmobile users: the way of making the trip to the library the same way everyone else does.
In the closing paragraph, Parikh is quoted emphasizing the relatively nascent—but already established—online services the library is able to offer, such as ebook downloading to iPads and phones.
"This new direction of serving kids, who are the most in need, directly in their schools will also move us forward in our commitment to support reading and learning," Parikh said.
This is definitely hard spin, but understandable: with an expected 10 percent budget loss next year, the Library System has the unenviable task of scaling down while trying to stay on everyone's good side.
But it's still a sneaky tactic.