Your library has arrived.
For the first time in 23 years, Beaufort County residents have a library on wheels.
Every two weeks, the new 26-foot-long bookmobile will deliver hardcover and audio books, DVDs, children's books and a wealth of computer resources to 39 locations within the county.
"This was simply the easiest way for the library to expand its services without building a new library. It is easily one one-hundredth the cost," said Ray McBride, director of the Beaufort County Library System. "Other bookmobile librarians we have spoken with said the interaction with visitors is the best part of the job."
The cost of the bookmobile, complete with materials and technology, is $143,000, paid for with money from the Library Impact Fees tax charged on all new construction.
Amanda Brewer, the bookmobile's librarian, is all smiles showing off the shiny new vehicle and its contents.
"We want people to visit us," said Brewer. "We're excited about bringing the library to people. We feel like it's going to be a value to people. We can give them not only books and materials but a smile."
The vehicle will visit a wide variety of locations, including senior care homes, recreation centers, schools and neighborhoods, and carries 2,500 items for library patrons of all ages. A wide selection of children's DVDs, games and books for young people are available.
"We have Launchpads, educational tablets that are pre-loaded with games that reinforce learning and education in a fun way," Brewer said, demonstrating one of the four on-board tablets.
Library users with poor vision can browse eight shelves of large-print best sellers and four rows of audio books. There are four iPad workstations for patrons to access other county services and the online catalog through the bookmobile's 5G WiFi onboard network. A lift at the back of the vehicle makes it accessible for wheelchair users.
The bookmobile will spend one hour at each stop and began its services June 5 with its first stop at Benton House of Bluffton. Patrons may check out materials from the bookmobile and may return those materials when the vehicle returns in two weeks, or they can be dropped off at any library branch.
There are plenty of informative brochures carried onboard in addition to the books, DVDs and audio materials. One piece of information is a card that describes how library cardholders can access a free app called Hoopla, through which they can borrow movies, music, audiobooks, eBooks, comics and more 24 hours a day, seven days a week. There's also information on how individuals with vision or physical limitations can access the free South Carolina Talking Book Services.
For more information on the Beaufort County Public Library, drop by your nearest branch, apply for a library card or renew your current one, get on the email list at beaufortcountylibrary.org/subscribe and take advantage of your free library services, because when you really want to know, ask a librarian.
Gwyneth J. Saunders is a veteran journalist and freelance writer living in Bluffton.