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The traveling library

Nate Caldwell (center) sits with the rest of his first grade class at Southside Elementary School as they show off books they checked out from the Cynthiana-Harrison County Library bookmobile. The bookmobile visits the school about twice a month to let students check-out new books to read in their classrooms.

Books and pencils jostle on their shelves. Bumps and potholes in the road produce an earthquake of rattling and tapping noises. The dry smell of books is masked by the bright-fruity smell of Ada Adair's perfume. The rattling stops as she parks the bookmobile and waits for people to climb on to look at her selection of books.

It's not exactly the smallest library but with just 38 shelves and three seats, counting the black stool tied to the back of the passenger seat, the white van known as the bookmobile brings books, movies and audio CDs to Harrison County residents who can't – or won't – make the trip the other way.

Ada, 59, who has operated the bookmobile for the past 10 years as a staff member of the Cynthiana-Harrison County Public Library, thinks of it like a traveling billboard.

"There's a lot to do at the library -- it's just getting kids here," she says.

Ada mostly communicates using Facebook, where she sets up appointments with people like Cynthia Perkins. Ada brings books to Cynthia's home at Southside Apartments a couple times a month.

"I really like this bookmobile because I don't drive," Cynthia says.

No-one knows how long the bookmobile has been around Harrison County, but the concept goes back as far as horse-drawn carriages. A scrapbook depicts the program's evolution since 1964.

The bookmobile made a total of 288 stops in 2018 and lent 6,626 books to the community. It shakes out to more than one book per Cynthiana resident by the most recent estimation. 

Ada's route includes regular deliveries to nursing homes, apartment complexes, laundry mats and grocery stores. The bookmobile makes a weekly trip to local elementary schools so students can check-out books for use in the classroom. 

"Some teachers just want kids to experience getting on the bookmobile because this is their only chance," she says. 

On an overcast Wednesday morning during the week of Halloween, a class of 1st-graders lined up outside the bus, waiting their turn. Six children fit inside at a time, just shy of elbow-to-elbow as they discuss the kinds of books they want.

"I wish I could find a Pokemón book," a boy says to his friends.

Each child finds a book, returns to their classroom, and the library moves on to the next stop.


Ada Adair prepares to leave the Harrison County Public Library parking lot in the bookmobile to make deliveries to Cynthiana residents. Ada has worked at the library for a decade and oversees the bookmobile and adult programming.
Ada shelves books after returning from a delivery. She thinks of the bookmobile like a traveling billboard for the library. With 1,600 books sitting on 38 shelves, the two-seater white van brings books, movies and audio CDs to Harrison County residents who can't or won't make the trip the other way.
A scrapbook from the Cynthiana-Harrison Coutny Public Library features photographs of the bookmobile and library events in 1984. The concept, which is old and implemented around the world, goes back to horse-drawn carriages in Harrison County.
Mayjur Williams (from left), and Mikaha Nance, first graders, pick out books while on the bookmobile at Southside Elementary. For students, the excursion interrupts the school day with something fun and different.
Ada laughs with her co-worker while in her office at Cynthiana-Henderson County Pubilc Library. She works in her office when not driving the bookmobile. Her office space holds half of the books in the bookmobile collection, as well as crafts for planned events.
Bookmobile and library visitors pose with their bookmobile selections. Billy Long (from left) likes to borrow movies. Coonie Copes checked out a romance novel. Andrew Franklin took out a graphic novel.
A first grader searches for books on the shelves of the bookmobile. The bookmobile seems to succeed in bringing the library to county residents. It made a total of 288 stops in 2018 and lent 6,626 books to the community. "There's a lot to do at the library, it's just getting kids here," Ada says.