When you can't get to the library, Carroll County's Public Library comes to you.
For 24 years, Carroll's Bookmobile has been carrying materials to patrons in institutions -- including Springfield Hospital Center, Fairhaven and Timber Ridge -- and residents in about 25 county neighborhoods that can't travel to the library.
"Basically, we're just a mini mobile branch on wheels," said Emily Ferren, director of special services. "We provide all of the services a branch library does."
About 3,000 items taken from the Westminster branch collection -- including reference materials and periodicals -- are on the 24-foot truck. Inter-library loans from other branches are also possible, Ferren said.
Approximately 2,050 materials are lent per month among the Bookmobile's 53 stops.
"We do keep a few books in reserve," she said. "Every day, we replenish the books (that were borrowed) for the next day, so we always have a backup."
But the Bookmobile service tends to cater to the approximately 984 patrons per month who use it, Ferren said.
For example, Bookmobile driver David Fair has gotten to know his patrons' reading tastes and likes to select materials for the collection he knows they will like.
"He takes great delight in going through the collection and finding something that person will want or need," she said. "When something new comes in, he says, 'Look what I found' before the person even requests it."
In much the same way, the Bookmobile's two smaller cousins -- the Family Day Care Vans -- have been delighting Carroll's preschool patrons in family day-care homes for about 12 years.
"When I tell the kids the Bookmobile is coming today, they get all excited," said Colleen Green, who runs a day-care home in Westminster. "They sit by the window and holler when it comes down the road."
Some 600 children in 180 licensed day-care homes receive a visit from the van once a month, said Susan Roberts, head of the programming department.
The half-hour stay includes a story-time program and time forthe children to pick out books.
Care providers also receive a prepackaged box of 10 books at each visit, with a wide variety of titlesto share with the children.
"We read a story or two, and do finger plays, songs or lap theater with puppets," she said. "It's just an abbreviated preschool story time."
Day-care centers served by the larger Bookmobile receive the same programming.
"Once a theme is set and prepared, we rotate it among the the three vehicles," Ferren said. "All of the day cares receive equal service, just at different times."
In continuing coverage of American Library Week -- April 14-20, The Carroll County Sun will look into special services the Carroll County Public Library offers.