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Spreading the word

New Mexicans in rural areas depend on services such as the New Mexico State Library’s bookmobiles.

After months of not traveling around the state, they are back on the road.

“For rural communities, the bookmobiles can really be a lifeline and connection to the outside world,” says Eli Guinnee, state librarian. “The fact that we can still do it demonstrates that in New Mexico, we have this tremendous commitment that everyone, no matter where they live, can have library service.”

The state’s three bookmobiles are based in Los Lunas, Cimarron and Tucumcari.

The services ramped back up on Sept. 14.

Each bookmobile carries about 4,000 books.

Guinnee says the staff of each bookmobile adheres to COVID-safe guidelines.

This means patrons will be unable to browse inside the bookmobiles for the time being.

The staff will prepare bags of books for no-contact drop-offs at select bookmobile stops. There is also an online catalog where patrons can reserve books for delivery.

Routes are also limited until it’s safe to travel to all counties, and staff will travel to areas close enough for a day trip.

“New Mexico is a very large state, but we believe every New Mexican should have access to library services no matter where they live, and we are thrilled to be able to get books back in the hands of rural residents,” Guinnee says. “The staff knows the regular patrons well, and they know the books that they like. It will be getting back to a sense of normalcy for the patrons to see the bookmobiles.”

The program has been serving rural New Mexico since 1956.

Guinnee says the library is a pillar of the community.

“It’s so much more than books,” he says. “It has a real and large value for the community. The more isolated the area is, there’s a huge draw for the bookmobiles.”

Guinnee says that although bookmobile services stopped for months during the pandemic, the library for the blind never stopped.

He’s also seen the library loan program get stronger.

“We’ve used the opportunity to build even bigger connections with public libraries across the state,” Guinnee says. “For us, it’s not been a wasted time. The staff has been involved with the DCA (state Department of Cultural Affairs) efforts by leading the distribution of activity kits. Having the bookmobiles out again will help us reach more patrons.”

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