New county bookmobile hits the road

CULLMAN - The Cullman County Bookmobile returned to service today after a three-year hiatus. The brand new $110,000 unit was delivered to the library two weeks ago and appeared in the Cullman County Fair Parade on September 17th.

The unit was paid for with a $55,000 federal grant supplied by the Alabama Public Library Service, and funding provided by the Cullman County Commission, local municipalities, and numerous donors.

According to Bookmobile Manager Pat McCullar, service will begin with stops at all county Senior Centers, and some nursing/assisted living facilities. School stops will soon be added, targeting those schools deemed "at risk" under the federal "No Child Left Behind" guidelines. Other schools will be added over the course of the next year, as will other community stops. A full schedule for the bookmobile will be announced shortly by library officials.

Cullman County has been without bookmobile service since 2002 when mechanical difficulties pulled the old 1978 bookmobile off the road permanently. Bookmobile service first started in the 1920s in Cullman County, and was taken over by the public library system in 1950. The service was cancelled due to lack of funding in 1981, but then re-started as an experimental project in 1994. The Bookmobile accounted for over 20% of all library usage when it was pulled off the road in 2002.

"We're very pleased to be able to re-start this very vital service for our citizens" said County Librarian/CEO John Paul Myrick, "and we are so grateful to the County, the City of Cullman, all the municipalities who contributed, and the many donors who made this service available."

The new bookmobile was named the "C.C.V. (Cullman County Vehicle) Carl Elliott" for Congressman Carl Elliott of Jasper who represented Cullman County from the 1940s through the 1960s. Elliott rode the Cullman County Bookmobile in the 1950s to do research on rural library needs. Taking information and photos he obtained in Cullman County to congressional hearings, Elliot lobbied for and wrote legislation which created the first on-going federal support for public libraries in the nation's history. Some of the photos taken on Elliott's rides through Cullman County are included in the artwork on the side of the unit, which has been nicknamed "Baby Carl" by library staffers.

The new Cullman County Bookmobile begins service in what is the centennial year of bookmobile service worldwide. The world's first bookmobile was a book wagon operated by the Hagerstown, Maryland library in 1905. Hagerstown also received a new bookmobile this year. "I think it is most fitting that probably the two most historic bookmobile operations in the nation received new units in this centennial year" Myrick said.

CCPLS had bid and ordered a new unit in 2003, but mechanical and construction problems led library officials to return that unit to the manufacturer for a refund. CCPLS re-bid the project last fall and awarded the bid to Transportation South, Inc. of Pelham, Alabama. The new unit was built by Turtle Top, Inc. of New Paris, Indiana in conjunction with Transportation South.


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