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Bookmobile donated to hurricane victims

December 17, 2005|By DAVID DISHNEAU

HAGERSTOWN -

A 27-foot gift box on wheels left Hagerstown Friday, filled with thousands of books for a Mississippi town that lost its library to Hurricane Katrina.

The former Allegany County bookmobile is scheduled to arrive Monday in Pearlington, Miss., to serve as a temporary replacement for the Pearlington Library, which was gutted and lost all of its contents in the Aug. 29 storm.

On Friday morning, three Allegany County librarians brought the brown-and-beige Bluebird bus from LaVale, Md., to the Washington County Free Library, where workers and volunteers loaded it with more than 3,000 donated volumes, audiobooks and other items. Three volunteers will take turns driving the bus through Virginia, Tennessee and Mississippi.

"I'm really pleased I get to come along," said Judy Castleman, who drove the bookmobile regularly until 2002. "I haven't done this for three years, so I miss it."

The donations were sparked by Anne Arundel County Public Library Administrator Marion Francis, a Jackson, Miss., native who chairs a Katrina relief committee of the Maryland Library Association. Francis said the bookmobile was more than she expected when she appealed to librarians and patrons across the state for donations. A new bookmobile costs about $90,000.

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"We talked about it as if it would be something wonderful to have, but we had no idea that one of the counties would actually be willing and able to donate such," Francis said.

Allegany County Library Director John Taube said he was moved to offer the 11-year-old bookmobile, which was due for replacement within two years, after seeing a picture of a ruined coastal library with its books littering a muddy parking lot.

"All of a sudden, the idea of the bookmobile clicked," Taube said. "I thought, 'This would be a wonderful way to get them back up and running in no time at all.'"

Taube said libraries can help rebuild communities.

"You can come in and get a book or a book on tape and find a way to relax, regroup, recharge and have something that's back to normal," Taube said. "That's my main goal in this thing - give them something that really says, 'We're coming back.'"

The bookmobile's arrival should do exactly that, said Sharman B. Smith, executive director of the Mississippi Library Commission.

"I expect it to be a very big event just because people are looking for small successes at this point in the sense of getting their lives back to normal," Smith said.

Because the library in Pearlington, with a population of 1,680 before the storm, served both the local elementary school and the public, the donated books include a large share of children's nonfiction titles, organizers said.

Donors also gave computer equipment and $10,700 in cash for the Pearlington Library, organizers said.

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