After more than a year of inactivity, the bookmobile will reappear on the streets of New Haven, after a federal grant this week allowed for the allocation of $57,000 to the New Haven Free Public Library to promote early learning opportunities among the city’s youth.
Over the next 17 months, the new grant will finance a revival of the bookmobile, a portable library of 5,142 titles that travel to local primary schools and neighborhoods without library access. In the past, the bookmobile has gone through several period of inactivity due to a lack of funding, NHFPL Early Childhood librarian Barbara Hendrix said.
Rep. Rosa DeLauro, who pushed for the funding, which is part of a larger $797,000 early-learning opportunities federal grant to the city, said she thinks the grant represents an important step forward in education for the New Haven community.
“When we invest in child care and early education programs, the results are undeniable,” she said.
NHFPL Coordinator of Children and Youth Services Xia Feng said she is excited that New Haven received the federal grant after several years of failed applications.
The bookmobile was first created in 2001 following a $237,000 state grant to finance the construction and running costs for its first year of operation, Feng said. Although it was originally limited to children’s books, the bookmobile now offers adult titles and foreign texts in translation, she said.
Hendrix said she thinks the bookmobile’s restoration will help improve levels of literacy in New Haven.
“The biggest impediment for children being exposed to books is to get to the library [so] we are bringing the library to them,” she said. “It might raise the literacy of the city.”
Officials at the library said it is still unclear whether the project’s revival will be long-lived or if operations will cease again due to a shortage of funds.
The bookmobile received a $5,000 donation from HSBC Bank this week, NHFPL spokeswoman Kathleen Hurley said. She said she is confident that other sources of funding will become available, as the bookmobile becomes better known among individuals and corporations in and around New Haven.
“Hopefully the more we are on the road, the more awareness it will get,” she said.
Feng said that when it becomes fully operational over the next few months, the bookmobile will make about 30 stops around New Haven in schools and neighborhoods.
The bookmobile will run Monday through Thursday from 9 a.m. to 12 p.m., and at one after-school afternoon each week, NHFPL Librarian Cindy Moore said.