MANCHESTER, NH — When Mayor Joyce Craig delivered her State of the City address four weeks ago she gave a special shout-out to Dan Quirk of Quirk Automotive for basically saving the city’s Bookmobile program.
Turns out the existing Bookmobile — a mini-library on wheels — had seen better days. It was running rough and needed a lot of work to keep rolling.
Craig, in conversation with Quirk, mentioned the city’s need for a new transport system to keep the library’s summer reading initiative going. Quirk didn’t hesitate.
While the gesture got a shout-out back on March 11 during the mayor’s annual address, a splashy dedication was not possible due to the rise of COVID-19 and the sudden kibosh on social gatherings.
But the good news is that a shiny new Dodge Ram Promaster City van is waiting in the wings. Library Director Denise VanZanten is beside herself, knowing that the Bookmobile will ride again.
“The new Bookmobile donation has just thrilled us,” VanZanten said. “The generosity of the Quirk Automotive Group will keep us on the road for many years to come and we are thankful for their support of early literacy. The library staff are in the process of working with our colleagues at the School District to accept the donation but of course, that timing is a bit off with the pandemic.”
VanZanten said the summer schedule is being worked on presently, and will likely need tweaking once traditional library services and hours resume. They must wait for guidance from the health department, which advised them to suspend all in-person contact, including curbside or “hold” pick-up services.
But the new van will create the opportunity for more stops this summer, VanZanten said, a prospect that also thrills Craig, who helped revive the Bookmobile back in 2018.
“The Bookmobile is a huge asset to our community, thanks to a partnership between the Manchester City Library and the school district,” Craig said. “Over the past two years, we’ve given away more than 6,000 books to students across the city, which has encouraged families to read together and helped to combat summer reading loss.”
Dan Quirk didn’t hesitate to help when he found out the city’s summer library was in need of wheels, Craig said. It was something he could do that also supports Quirk’s mission of connecting with the community.
In addition to supporting the city library, Quirk over the years has donated sports equipment to youth athletic leagues and collected holiday gifts through the annual Little Elves outreach of Goffstown, as well as providing free child safety seats and helping support the city’s first diaper pantry, established last fall, as a drop-off point.
Quirk says finding ways to help is part of the family philosophy he carries with him, and an essential aspect of doing business — those who can help should help.
Quirk said he’s “very excited” about getting the Bookmobile on the road as a way to “help enrich students’ reading activities throughout Manchester.” They will continue to work closely with the city and school district to map out a timeline, once life — and businesses — return to business as usual.
Libraries ramp up online services
That is something VanZanten is also looking forward to, as the city’s libraries provide an invaluable service to residents of all ages. As always, the library is doing what it can to adjust to the current restrictions and guidelines, which includes some interesting innovations.
The library is functioning virtually, and has started issuing a bi-weekly newsletter to keep patrons updated. (Read the first installment here).
VanZanten said they’ve also been working with city schools and the city’s Homeless Prevention and Response Coordinator to figure out how to deliver online library cards so anyone can access the many free digital resources in the library’s holdings while the bricks-and-mortar libraries are closed. Items available virtually include not only books and movies, but the Great Courses series, genealogy databases and, as always, research resources for students.
“The library is also offering programs as well and, yes, our book discussion groups are still happening,” VanZanten said. “Programs and activities include the National Teddy Bear Hunt, a virtual escape room, and teen advisory services, and our librarians are also available for informational services via e-mail, phone, social media and our new chat service as well.”
In the meantime the library is working on initiatives and new protocols so they are ready, when restrictions end, for how to handle library materials — including a holding period of 24 to 72 hours after an item is returned before circulating again.
“There has been information shared by the Center for Disease Control and the Institute of Museum and Library Services about mitigating library collections that is helpful and will be a part of our reopening plan,” VanZanten said.