Bookmobile cruises Eastern New Mexico

William Thompson

Reyes Gonzales and A.J. Smith, workers on the New Mexico State Library’s Bookmobile for rural eastern New Mexico, drove the 40-foot long bookmobile into Logan recently for its monthly visit. Earlier in the day they made stops in Amistad and Nara Visa offering free books to patrons.

Gonzales said the bookmobile carries around 3,000 books.
“We’ve got about 3,000 books on the bookmobile and about 4,000 more at our home office in Tucumcari,” said Gonzales. “The bookmobile serves as a kind of library. People can take as many books as they like beginning with their second visit. There are never any fees or overdue book fines. All we ask is that the patrons bring the books back when we make our next monthly visit.” Smith said that in order to use the bookmobile service, an application must be completed. “As long as a person lives more than 15 miles from a library, they are free to check out books from the bookmobile,” said Smith. “All they have to do is fill out an application and they can check out five books on their first visit. After that they can check out as many books as they like.”

Judy Westall, a Logan resident, brought 12 books back to the bookmobile Wednesday afternoon. She said she has been using the bookmobile’s services over the past four years. “I read book reviews and write down the books I think would be interesting to read,” said Westall. “Then when the bookmobile comes to town I bring my list and try to find those books. I like big epics, books that will take a few days to read.” Smith said she and Gonzales sometimes put in 12-hour days traveling the highways and byways of eastern New Mexico in the bookmobile. “We are on the road about three weeks out of every month,” said Smith. “We make stops in small communities in ten different counties. We hit all the small towns in Quay County. We even have about five regular patrons in the town of Quay.” Smith said her job as a traveling librarian is not all about road trips and handing out free books. “We are responsible for the cleanliness of the bookmobile,” she said, “and the state always has plenty of paperwork for us to complete back at the office.”

Mary Bell Mason, 87, stepped into the bookmobile in Logan looking for books by popular southwest author Tony Hillerman, and was able to find a few. “I think this bookmobile is one of the greatest things to hit Logan,” said Mason. “I’ve been coming to the bookmobile since 1976. I have been so pleased with the selection of books they offer.” Paula White, director of the bookmobile service for eastern New Mexico, said the bookmobile service began in 1957. “We are federally funded,” said White, “but we also get funding from the counties we serve. For instance, Quay County gives us $1,000 a year to purchase books. We can usually purchase brand new books for about 10 or 15 dollars per book, and those books stay in our collection”
As Smith suggested a popular book to a patron on the bookmobile Wednesday, she said that she and Gonzales will go to great lengths to find a particular book requested by a patron. “We often go to the state library web site on the Internet to find books that we can order,” said Smith. “We can even get books from libraries out of state.”