Bookmobile “Dottie” makes Summer Reading accessible

The library comes to you! Sarah Mathews, Outreach Coordinator shares all about Dottie–the bookmobile of Lawrence Public Library (Lawrence, KS).

by Kayla Cook, Media Relations & Communications Specialist, feat. Sarah Mathews, Outreach Coordinator

Q&A with Sarah Mathews, Outreach Coordinator

Summer Reading is for everyone! However, we understand if making it down to 707 Vermont St can be a challenge. That's why "Dottie", the library's bookmobile, is here to save the day. All summer long, our Outreach Team has a variety of stops across Lawrence offering library card sign-ups, books and movies to check out, free books for kids to keep, and lots more. Want to see Dottie in your neighborhood or at your organization or event? Request outreach here.

"Dottie", the Library’s bookmobile, makes it possible for Lawrence community members to experience Lawrence Public Library (LPL) on-the-go! What's your favorite part of visiting schools, local businesses, and community events on Dottie?

First and foremost, it’s access. We want to make it easier for folks to have access to library materials even if they can’t get into the library. That’s the whole point of Outreach and I wholeheartedly believe in it. Second? It’s seeing faces light up when we roll up or they see the truck for the first time. My job has almost 100% positive reactions from people and that’s pretty rare in a career. I know, I’m lucky.

We want to make it easier for folks to have access to library materials even if they can’t get into the library. That’s the whole point of Outreach and I wholeheartedly believe in it.

How long has the Library had Dottie? How did Dottie come to life? Did Dottie really used to be an ice cream truck?

Contrary to popular belief, Dottie was not an ice cream truck nor a Wonder Bread truck in its genesis! Once it was decided we needed a mobile library, we bought a UPS-style box truck which was then customized by University of Kansas Architecture, opens a new window students. 

We’ve been doing Outreach in some form for years. Gregor Brune goes on daily rounds to deliver books to retirement homes and Pattie Johnston, who retired a few years ago, was the one who first started doing Outreach at LPL back in the day. I’m grateful that I’ve been able to snag ideas from them here and there.

Where does the name “Dottie” come from? Also, we’re curious–what’s it like driving her?

We had a contest to name Dottie and got so many great entries. A favorite among staff was a toddler who submitted the name, “Elbow.” I personally liked "ISBN Thinkin’ 'Bout You" but it was maybe a bit long. The winning “Dottie” name was a reference to the dot on the library’s logo and came from a previous employee! Fun fact: That employee came back to LPL and works in the Teen Zone again. Thanks for the great name, Sage!

The idea of driving Dottie terrified me at first but as time has gone on, it’s actually quite fun.There’s an old episode of Roseanne where Jackie gets a job as a truck driver and tells everyone she’s out, “driving the big rigs.” I keep saying that. No one has gotten the reference. 

Is there a special Dottie memory that comes to mind?

Once, at a slower stop, we were parked near a daycare center. The kids weren’t allowed to visit the truck that day so we read stories to them through the fence with the employees’ permission. It was lovely.

What are the hottest titles available on Dottie right now?

I pull books from our New Book shelves inside the library and stock Dottie with them as much as I can. There are always new and popular titles on Dottie! I hesitate to name one because it’ll likely be checked out by the time this is published. A lot of times we’ll get the first circ of a book on Dottie too–meaning a book that is predicted to be really popular can be found on our shelves first. It’s a pretty cool perk.

Are there free books available on Dottie and, if so, do you have to have a library card to get them?

Yes to the first question! We have free Dr. Bob READs books for children funded by the Library's Friends & Foundation on Dottie and any child may have a free book when we come visit. We often have books for adults too along with other fun swag that folks can have. Stay tuned for an exciting prize that will only be available on Dottie this summer. A library card is never required for Outreach freebies but, I mean, you may as well get one since you’re here.

What are some of the Dottie Stops that folks with Autism, PTSD, and other sensory sensitivities could stop by for a quieter Dottie Stop?

I’d say our two quietest stops are probably Edgewood and Bert Nash. Although, I can never guarantee that a stop will be quiet, of course. But, those two typically have the fewest folks milling about.

There’s more to Outreach than Dottie! What is your favorite story from a tabling event for the library?

I love tabling because I can really take the time to talk with people. It’s different from being on Dottie because I’m there to promote the library and not necessarily focus on checking items out to patrons. We recently tabled at the Monarch Watch plant sale fundraiser and were stationed directly across from one of those head-in-the-hole photo stations. We probably saw about a hundred people put their faces in a hole so they’d look like a monarch. I love seeing people laugh and it was definitely cracking everyone up. I may have done it myself. 

What do you want the Lawrence community to know about Library Outreach? How can people get Dottie booked for their next event?

We’d love to be involved in your school carnivals, your neighborhood parties, or anywhere you think we’d fit in! We have a handy form folks can fill out if they’d like us to show up at their event. On that same page, people can find a schedule of where we’ll be day-to-day.

We’re celebrating 10 years of the “new” library building. What is your dream for Dottie and Outreach for the next 10 years?

10 years? Wow. Maybe by then we’ll have a fleet of Dotties! Outreach is an open road.

About Lawrence Public Library
Lawrence Public Library (LPL for short) is a community hub that believes in the power of connecting with each other through shared knowledge and resources. Located in the heart of Downtown Lawrence, Kansas, we are committed to providing a space where our community can learn, connect, create, and grow through access to our vast collections, resources, services, programs, and knowledgeable staff. The library is supported by tax dollars, record-breaking book sales and philanthropic efforts by the LPL Friends & Foundation, and the dedicated efforts of more than 300 volunteers. All are welcome.





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