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Local News

Charlotte’s Web Bookmobile Opens New Chapter in Getting Lompoc Valley Children to Read

Driven by dream of late Mayor Charlotte Benton, mobile library delivers books to where the kids are

Lompoc youth librarian Courtney Rogness is a welcoming sight at the Charlotte’s Web Bookmobile. The vehicle went into service a few months ago and is making the rounds, bringing books to where the community’s children are. Click to view larger
Lompoc youth librarian Courtney Rogness is a welcoming sight at the Charlotte’s Web Bookmobile. The vehicle went into service a few months ago and is making the rounds, bringing books to where the community’s children are. (Janene Scully / Noozhawk photo)

An enormous vehicle is helping persuade Lompoc Valley children that loving reading can be fun.

The Lompoc Public Library rolled out Charlotte’s Web Bookmobile in the spring, and the vehicle has visited summer camps and youth activities recently, in addition to appearing at other community events.

“We’re basically a library on wheels — you can get a card here, sign up for summer reading, we do storytime, everything,” Courtney Rogness, youth librarian, told Noozhawk.

“That thing that we all love about books and the imagination is sparked with the bookmobile. It’s not the normal thing. It’s different. It’s exciting,” she said, adding that she encourages youths to read for fun, and not just for homework.

On Friday night, she parked the vehicle at Old Town Market, where it will be weekly in July.

Youths approach the bookmobile with the excitement typically reserved for a fire truck, and then are excited to realize it holds thousands of books, Rogness said.

“They just go crazy,” she said. “They’re so excited.”

Rogness also has signed up 200 summer reading participants and issued library cards as the vehicle hosted 1,000 visitors “just in the past month,” she said.

“A lot of people who come on the bookmobile do not have a card at all,” she said. “So that means, if you think about it, a thousand new people means a thousand new cards means a thousand library users. I mean, it’s pretty staggering.”

For children who can’t get a library card because their application was lost or some other reason, Rogness has a solution.

A special display pays tribute to the woman who made the Charlotte’s Web Bookmobile possible, the late Charlotte Benton, Lompoc’s first woman mayor. Click to view larger
A special display pays tribute to the woman who made the Charlotte’s Web Bookmobile possible, the late Charlotte Benton, Lompoc’s first woman mayor.  (Janene Scully / Noozhawk photo)

“The one thing I didn’t want to see was anybody coming on the bookmobile who couldn’t take a book,” she said.

Those youths are encouraged to take a special book, designated with a blue sticker, and return it when they are done, using the honor system.

“It just means they get to use the library and they get to walk away with a smile on their face,” she said.

Books can be returned to any Lompoc Library including the main facility plus the Vandenberg Village branch, in addition to the bookmobile.

The project to create a children’s library in Lompoc came from the late Charlotte Benton, Lompoc’s first woman mayor and an avid reader.

However, when the project to build a standalone children’s library became impossible due to a lack of funding, city officials looked to purchasing a bookmobile to fulfill Benton’s dream.

In late 2014, the city purchased the vehicle for approximately $300,000.

The name pays tribute to both the children’s library benefactor and the popular children’s book, Charlotte’s Web.

“By the way, I have five of them in my collection, but they’re all checked out,”​ Rogness said.

A small display includes books about Benton, and Rogness said she tells young readers about the woman who made it possible for the city to purchase the bookmobile.

Lompoc youth librarian Courtney Rogness is encourged by the enthusiasm she’s seen when children climb aboard the Charlotte’s Web Bookmobile. “That thing that we all love about books and the imagination is sparked with the bookmobile,” she says. “It’s exciting.” Click to view larger
Lompoc youth librarian Courtney Rogness is encourged by the enthusiasm she’s seen when children climb aboard the Charlotte’s Web Bookmobile. “That thing that we all love about books and the imagination is sparked with the bookmobile,” she says. “It’s exciting.” (Janene Scully / Noozhawk photo)

The bookmobile allows Rogness to go to where the children are, meaning she’s visited the Lompoc Family YMCA, the Boys & Girls Club and after-school programs.

Schools, day-care facilities and others can request that the bookmobile visit, at no cost, with forms available at the website.

“It’s intellectual freedom at its best,” Rogness added.

The 25-foot-long bookmobile uses diesel, solar and battery for power, making it a very green machine, unlike those retired in other communities due to stricter environmental standards.

Right now the bookmobile has books and videos, but does have a flat-screen television and has the capability to install computers.

“I was super stoked about technology,” Rogness said. “I’m a Librarian 2.0. I’m into technology.

“However, I’ve been absolutely beside myself with goosebumps at how much the kids are into reading.”

Noozhawk North County editor Janene Scully can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

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