On the buses: David Welch

David and the mobile busWe are about to enter an exciting new era for our Mobile Library. Two mobile library vans will service the community, from Monday 3 December 2012. Rotary New Zealand sought and received funding for the vans, which help fill the gaps left in library services after the earthquakes forced the closure of several libraries. One van is funded by Rotary International, and the other van is funded through a partnership with Rotary International and the Cotton On Foundation.

Library assistant David Welch is about to celebrate a milestone too –  he has been a Mobile Library driver since 23 November 1993. His last day on the big bus, before the move to vans, will be on 22 November.

Things have changed a lot since then. Community libraries have opened in areas previously only serviced by the buses (Linwood, Parklands, Upper Riccarton). Back in the 90s, the  Mobile Library was not online, and couldn’t retrieve borrower files, and they were owners of the original brick style cellphones to communicate with  libraries. With less direct connection to the library system David says the Mobile “often felt quite isolated, like the last mission station up the Amazon” – a great bastion of culture scooting round the streets.

David reckons three quarters of the customers are regulars. The Mobile Library staff get to know their customers well, and can watch out for books and authors they like. What qualities should Mobile Library staff have? The ability to “think on their feet” and “keep familiar with the stock”.

He has lots of stories from the Christchurch streets. Once he was taking his tea break on the park bench on the corner of Waltham Road and Hastings Street when five police cars screamed up and pointed pistols at a car. They were catching someone who had shot a person in a drug deal gone wrong.  A policemen retrieved a pistol off the front seat of the arrested man’s car.

David will miss the big bus: “There is no place in the world feels more comfortable”. He has driven a heavy vehicle almost every week since 1977.

Mobile LibraryMobile LibraryMobile LibraryMobile OneMobile ModelsMobile Two
Inside the busMobile 2 Avonhead RoadRefurbished Mobile LibraryAffirm 2009Mobile LibraryInside the Mobile Library

The wheels on the bus go round and round …

Curses! Now you’ll be stuck with that  tune in your head all day, in much the same way that wheels and libraries have been on my mind of late.

It all began with my soft launch into graphic novels – The Night Bookmobile by Audrey Niffenegger.  Let’s face facts, when talents were being distributed, Niffenegger had definitely elbowed her way to the front of the queue.

Endowed with a fertile imagination and already a very successful writer – think The Time Traveler’s Wife and Her Fearful Symmetry – she is also the gifted illustrator of her books The Three Incestuous Sisters and more recently, The Night Bookmobile . Harking back to the Hindu notion of  Akashic records that keep a tally of all our previous incarnations, The Night Bookmobile keeps a record of all our past reads. What further talents could Niffenegger possibly unveil, other than to set the whole shebang to self-composed music and place a little disc in the back of this beautiful book?

Which leads on to my second crumbling bastion of the month – books with accompanying discs, and in a serendipitous turn of events, I finally got a long-awaited book: Shanachie Tour, A Library Road Trip Across America. I just flipped through the book but actually watched the DVD. It’s about three Dutch librarians who travel across America visiting libraries. Why didn’t we think of that first! Despite a disturbingly truncated presentation, it’s inspirational stuff for library lovers. My favourite quote from the DVD is:

The Universe is made of stories, not atoms.

I can only think of two other books that relate to this theme of wheels and traveling librarians: The Camel Bookmobile  by Masha Hamilton and one other (whose name I cannot remember) about books being transported around South America on a donkey. Whatever was its title?

The Displaced Reader: Mobile Library with a high vis vest

Shout out for Mobile LibraryWhen I heard that the Mobile Library was going to be doing a special post-earthquake stop in my neighbourhood, I was excited. I liked the idea of going for a walk and climbing the steps into a bus. A bus! I love those promotional buses that sometimes park up in the Square and have great displays; I’m a sometime bus commuter and I used to own a housebus – so I consider myself a bus person.

The Mobile Library met all my expectations and more. I found titles just jumped out at me and there was a certain cameraderie from sharing such a small space. Conversations were easy to get into. This little photo collection of the Mobile Library will give you an idea what to expect.

Shopping has some possibilities as well. Of course the Palms is closed but why not visit the shopping centre on the corner of Hills and Shirley Roads. There is a certain famous butcher, a chemist, a bakery, a sweet shop and takeaways – everything you need in these stressful times.

The Mobile Library is going to Shirley Intermediate on Saturdays from 9.30am to 4.30pm and is also operating in the carpark of the  Christchurch City Council Linwood Service Centre on Smith Street, on Mondays and Wednesdays from 9.30am-4.30pm. Look for the blue library open flag and the bus that already has its own high-vis vest.

Find out which libraries are open and where the Mobile Library gets to around the city.

OK – I’ve been to small and beautiful, now I’m going to try large and beautiful by visiting South Library. Find out where the  Displaced Reader has been on her travels.