Bookmobile Update (No service on 11/25/21)

November 2021

Greetings! We wanted to send an email with some information regarding the recent mechanical issues with the Bookmobile. As most of you are aware, the Bookmobile has not been on the road for several weeks now. Holds have been brought out via the Readmobile, along with a small browsing collection. We recognize that this is not an ideal replacement for the Bookmobile experience, but we have been lucky to have the little box-truck on hand for such situations.

We know the frustration folks experience when the Bookmobile is off the road, and we truly understand the confusion with what must seem like perpetual issues with this four-year-old vehicle. In the interest of keeping you knowledgeable about this mobile library of yours, here’s an update on what’s been going on, and some insight into the nature of the unique beast that is the Bookmobile:

Currently, the Bookmobile is in need of a new radiator, but there have been delays in getting one, owing to supply-chain issues as well as the fact that radiators for this type of vehicle are not found in abundance. We were supposed to get one a week ago (the only one in the country at that time!) but there was a mix-up and it ended up getting shipped elsewhere, which has of course kept the Bookmobile off the road for longer than we’d hoped. But one has been ordered, and will hopefully arrive at the service location before too long.

The Bookmobile is a complex piece of work. There were three manufacturers involved in the making of it:

–Foretravel (the RV body, AC units, headlights, and so forth)
–Freightliner (the engine, chassis, leveler-system, suspension)
–LDV (the custom-interior, library-side of the vehicle)
Only the Foretravel side has truly given us continual headaches. The Freightliner aspect of the vehicle has experienced the normal wear-and-tear expected of such a vehicle putting the amount of miles on as we do on a weekly basis (which is approximately 300). Because of the nature of this truck, however, and the difficulty of working on it, not to mention getting the proper parts, we sometimes have to be off the road for more than a day. Unlike a car, such a vehicle requires a bit more work in order for it to be serviced properly. The simple difficulty of accessing its engine extends the time that our service places need it in order to do their work. For instance, there is no easy access to the engine: to merely get a look at a small section of the top of the engine it’s necessary to remove a panel in the floor between the seats, and even that doesn’t allow for much access. Most of the work must be done from underneath the vehicle, or a coordination between someone inside and someone under… or removing sections of the dash. It’s not just a matter of lifting the hood. Not fun!

This year we had a run of particular bad luck, with several small issues that nevertheless, because of the complex nature of the vehicle, required us to be off the road. Needing a new radiator is just the most recent one, and the one taking the longest.

The custom-side of the vehicle, undertaken by LDV Custom Specialty Vehicles down in Burlington, WI (click the blue button below), has proven very reliable. More than anything, they’ve tweaked, expanded, or improved certain aspects as we’ve requested, mostly to make using the Bookmobile a more efficient and enjoyable experience for patrons. We also take the vehicle down there for a week at the end of summer (late August), to take care of any work, large or small, that needs doing, and to give it a routine inspection and tune-up by the folks most familiar with it. This will be an on-going tradition for us, so you should expect the Bookmobile to be gone for a week in that time right before school starts.

One thing most people may not realize is that the Bookmobile is a bit of an experiment in its hybrid form. This is in contrast to the Dream Bus, which was also made by LDV, but which is a much more “normal” vehicle for them, in line with the other vehicles they make all the time. A heavy-duty Freightliner chassis was chosen over a standard RV chassis because of the longer expected life of the more rugged Freightliner. Although RVs are heavier than us (owing to plumbing, cabinetry, beds, etc) they would be less likely to withstand the wear and tear of 300 miles a week for fifteen years, in all kinds of weather, which is the rough plan for the Bookmobile’s life with us (the previous vehicle was 15 years old when it was retired).

One problem we encounter when work is needed is that we don’t have a fleet of such vehicles waiting in reserve. Occasionally we have been lucky to bring out the Dream Bus, whose on-board experience is essentially the same as that of the Bookmobile, but the Dream Bus has its own routes it must go out on, and unfortunately those routes overlap with those of the Bookmobile. The Readmobile is a familiar vehicle to most of you, having been called in to service many times over the years. It’s limited in what it can do for people, of course, and mostly its service has amounted to bringing out holds, taking in returns, and offering a small browsing collection… when weather allows.

We are lucky to have now been given the use of a small bus from the Waste and Renewables Department, which will allow for some form of on-board service. It will be limited in what it can offer, but will be a definite improvement over working out of the back of a box truck. Expect to see it out on the road starting November 29. See the picture below.

Perhaps by the time you read this we will have gotten official word on when we can expect the Bookmobile to be back in service and returning to your neighborhoods… but until then, we’ll keep doing what we can to bring you whatever library service we can manage.

To stay up to date with schedule changes or route adjustments, as well as other news, follow us on Facebook and Twitter (see icons below).

As always, thank you for your continued support.

–Dane County Library Service