Published April 6, 2022, University of Mary Washington Weekly Ringer
by Jean Mondoro
After eight months in operation, Bookmobile Fredericksburg has added a new van to broaden the reach of its mobile library. This decision was made with the intention of providing opportunities for people further from the city to utilize the Bookmobile’s services.
“We wanted to launch a smaller vehicle that we can do what in my head I’ve been referring to as an ice cream truck model where we can have a mapped out route in more rural areas and we can do quick stops, allow people to get some books and move on,” said junior English major in the secondary education program Hollis Cobb, the founder of Bookmobile Fredericksburg.
Cobb said that while the Bookmobile has been very active and successful in Fredericksburg, the mission would reach more people in the larger community. The smaller vehicle will be able to travel to areas such as southern Spotsylvania, Caroline County and King George County.
According to junior philosophy major and Associate Director of Bookmobile Fredericksburg Kate McDaid, the vehicle was found on Facebook Marketplace, and Cobb and McDaid considered it to be the best option.
“He [Cobb] initially found the van and actually traveled through snow to get it!” said McDaid. “It was a great investment and there have already been benefits even before its fully launched.”
Although the van was purchased back in January, last month featured an event that invited members of the community to participate in celebrating the additional resource. On March 24 and 26, the Bookmobile team welcomed anyone to join in painting and decorating the new van. The first event took place downtown at Freddy Donuts, and the second happened on the UMW campus.
“Painting the van was super fun!” said junior environmental science major Ava Spencer. “In all honesty, with the end of the year stress starting to hit everyone, it was exactly what I needed to get some stress out. I loved feeling like I was a part of the Bookmobile ‘community.’”
The public event used temporary paint, and the team is planning to add a more uniform, permanent design to the van.
“The intent with painting was that everyone has been so supportive and has had such a hand in where we’ve gotten, why don’t we literally allow them to touch and put their mark on our next community endeavor?” said Cobb.
Over the past eight months, Bookmobile Fredericksburg has consistently grown in participation and outreach efforts.
“It’s been amazing to see how fast our organization has not only grown, but also see how fast it was accepted in the community of Fredericksburg/UMW and beyond,” said McDaid. “We have grown from just Hollis and a 1989 ambulance to a staff of 5 (plus a constant part-time volunteer), being a partner with Community Outreach and Resources (COAR), having up to 5 events in one week with these events ranging from UMW campus all the way to Arlington! It’s crazy to think that the Bookmobile has only been in operation for just over 8 months and has accomplished so much with so many more opportunities on their way to becoming a reality.”
Back in the summer of 2021, Cobb started the Bookmobile as a “passion project” and was not expecting the growth that has occurred since August. Over time, the team and the mission expanded.
“The Bookmobile started on a bit of a whim,” Cobb said. “It was kind of the perfect storm of I had some extra time, some extra money, and I needed something to do with my summer. And then, kind of by accident, I created something a lot bigger than I meant to.”
When asked about the early days of the Bookmobile, McDaid recalled first getting involved.
“I then helped with launch day and helped out here and there, and then one day Hollis asked if I wanted to be more involved with Bookmobile as in making more executive decisions, giving opinions, etc., and I was so excited to get more involved in a project that I was so passionate about!” said Cobb. “Hollis and I ran the organization for a few months and then took on some more people to expand our Executive Board.”
Now, with the addition of the new van, Bookmobile Fredericksburg is looking to further expand their outreach to others in the surrounding area.
“Our short term goal right now is to provide more opportunities for volunteers to work with us,” Cobb said. “There are so many things we want to do, but one of our biggest limitations is, we’re college students.”
As one of the students who contributed to the painting of the van, Spencer recommends that others volunteer as well.
“They are a great group of students who are passionate about what they do, and I think it’s incredible that they are spreading one of our society’s greatest treasures: books!” Spencer said. “Making them available for free is an incredible opportunity to service underprivileged people, too!”
Moving forward, Bookmobile Fredericksburg plans to engage more with the community. Some of these efforts include the plan for a storytelling booth at the downtown farmer’s market, which is set to launch before the end of the semester. As financial support is also necessary, the organization utilizes social media and their website to request donations.
The team is currently garnering donations through a naming fundraiser for the new vehicle. Anyone who votes on a name must make a donation, and the name with the highest votes and donations will be chosen. They plan to decide on the name on April 16.
Beyond fundraising, the team is already looking to the future.
“Long term, I’m looking forward to hopefully putting together a larger fleet,” said Cobb. “I’d like to think that a mobile workspace and tutoring center is in our future, if we can get our hands on a bus or a larger vehicle like that. Our core is distributing books, but there’s a lot more things we can do to promote literacy and education in the community.”