Michelle Demchuk and Phyllis Buechler have had some adventures in the two years they've been riding on the Ward County Bookmobile, but the people they run into are pretty friendly.
"We've only been stuck once," said Demchuk. The Bookmobile has broken down on remote rural highways, but they carry cell phones and someone always comes to their aid.
"It's North Dakota," said Demchuk, who recalls one passerby stopping and asking, "Are you ladies warm in there?"
Andrea Johnson/MDN •
Phyllis Buechler helps Edgewood Vista resident Kermit Mostad check out books on the Ward County Bookmobile March 3.
Andrea Johnson/MDN •
Michelle Demchuk works on the Ward County Bookmobile March 3.
The women have given the bookmobile a name because they got tired of having the librarian write down the initials "B.M." when referring to the vehicle.
"The Bookmobile's name is Bernice," said Demchuk. "We got tired of B.M. Bernice is so much better. And she's an older lady so we tried to pick an older lady's name."
The Ward County Library has had a bookmobile for 50 years. The library will celebrate the anniversary with an open house from 2 to 4 p.m. April 5 at the Ward County Public Library. There will also be an open house from 2 to 4 p.m. April 26 at the Ward County Public Library branch in Kenmare. There will be pictures and stories from the early years of the bookmobile on display. People will have a chance to have their pictures taken with "Bernice." Door prizes will be given away at the open house.
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The bookmobile is a 1997 model vehicle. Demchuk and Buechler have spent plenty of time on the road the last few years driving across Ward and Mountrail counties.
"Last year we put on 12,000 miles," said Demchuk.
There are thousands of children's and adult books aboard the bookmobile, which stops at rural schools or senior living facilities or nursing homes to allow people in areas without a library or those that might have a hard time accessing library services to check out books.
Last year there were 45,000 books checked out of the bookmobile in Ward County and about 7,000 books checked out in Mountrail County.
"The farthest out we go is White Earth," said Buechler.
Most locations get two bookmobile stops each month.
"The farther out, the more they check out," said Buechler.
Demchuk said the Ward County Library's best book selection are on the bookmobile.
Both women enjoy talking to the kids who go through the bookmobile to check out materials.
Buechler taught physical education for 30 years in area schools. "When I retired from teaching, I thought this would be a fun job," she said, since it would keep her in contact with children without teaching them.
It's been awhile since Buechler has taught at some of the schools they stop at, so she isn't recognized as much by the current students, but they do get to know the kids who check out books every few weeks and get a feeling for their individual tastes.
Demchuk also worked with children before.
"I like kids," she said. "I used to run a day care." She said she took the job on the bookmobile at Buechler's suggestion and enjoys getting to know the kids well enough to make suggestions about books they might enjoy since they read another book like it.
Working on the bookmobile also makes her more aware of what books are popular and helps her at home.
"My kids are becoming better readers" because she works on the bookmobile, she said, the kids who come through the bookmobile often give her reading suggestions that she can take home to encourage her own children to read. Her son was a reluctant reader but now she can suggest different books to him that other kids have read and enjoyed. Her daughter is more of a reader and will give her mom suggestions to make to the kids who go through the bookmobile.
Right now the books that are popular with kids are graphic novels, books with animal characters, and books with vampire characters, including the "Twilight" series and other recently published novels with vampires. Older boys like books about hunting and fishing. There seems to be a trend toward boys preferring non-fiction books, said Demchuk.
The women enjoy seeing how excited people get about seeing the bookmobile. It is a vital service in areas where there isn't a library or much access to books, they said.