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posted: 6/9/2010 12:01 AM

Wheeling library retires bookmobile, opens new branch

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  • With repair and operating costs too much to afford, the Indian Trails Public Library District's bookmobile has been parked for good. The district instead opened a new branch in northwest Prospect Heights.

      With repair and operating costs too much to afford, the Indian Trails Public Library District's bookmobile has been parked for good. The district instead opened a new branch in northwest Prospect Heights.
    Submitted photo

 
 

After years of mechanical problems, the Indian Trails Public Library District parked their bookmobile permanently and opened a new branch to take its place on the northwest side of Prospect Heights.

"Every time we drove it the engine would shake violently," Library Director Tom Simiele said. "We shipped it to Canada and to Columbus, Ohio to get it fixed and when we'd get it back, the problem would start all over again. We can't put our employees or the public in danger."

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With the warranty recently expired, the library district can't afford costly repairs on the vehicle it purchased six years ago for $180,000, Simiele said.

So instead, the library district is suing its maker, Farber Specialty Vehicles, of Columbus Ohio.

"Those things are supposed to last 15 years," Simiele said. "And it's not like we were driving it at high speeds."

Farber representatives did not return phone calls for comment Tuesday.

In the meantime, to help serve patrons who used the bookmobile, the library opened a new center at 650B N. Milwaukee Avenue in the Palwaukee Shopping Center. The area was one of the busiest stops for the bookmobile, Simiele said.

Hardcovers, paperbacks, magazines, CDs, DVDs and games are stacked in the center, and many materials come in a variety of languages including English, Korean, Spanish, Hindi, Polish, and Russian. More than 450 items were circulated the day the branch opened on May 18.

The new center is part of a growing trend where bookmobiles are out and smaller branches are in, Simiele said.

"Bookmobiles are great for rural communities, but are expensive to run and maintain," he said. "Today, the trend is to put libraries where people are - right in the middle of commercial areas and in shopping centers so people can zip in and zip out."

Barrington has a branch in a park district's tennis center, and last year Mount Prospect opened a community center in the 1700 block of West Algonquin Road. The center has representatives from the Mount Prospect Public Library, Northwest Community Hospital and school districts 59 and 214.

Smaller branches are less expensive compared to bookmobiles and don't come with the commitment of spending $180,000 on a vehicle, Simiele said. Indian Trails signed a one-year lease with the owner of the Palwaukee Shopping Center. If the branch isn't a success, Simiele said, library officials will try something else next year.

The district spent about $5,000 to put the whole thing together, about $3,500 of which was earmarked for the bookmobile, Simiele said.

The branch is open from 4 to 8 p.m. Mondays through Fridays and from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Saturdays. It is closed on Sunday.

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