Bookmobile operator driven by faith

Washington County Public Libraries reach most rural and underserved areas

Isabel Luke, 11, looks up at animal books while her older sister Maddison, center, browses graphic novels with Washington County Public Libraries’ bookmobile driver Andrea Ralston on Thursday at Flander’s Field in the lower west side of Marietta. (Photo by Janelle Patterson)

Three days a week she’s traversing back roads and river bottoms, in a little blue and white vehicle.

“I listen to podcasts on the drive,” she shared Thursday, after pulling onto the basketball court of Flander’s Field in Marietta’s lower west side.

She makes time for mass, especially during this time of year when Lent is in full swing.

And her faith is at the center of much of her work over the years.

“It always has been, it’s not new,” she said. “It’s always been part of whatever I do … I was sick and almost died when I was 23 … so after that I (said) what’s my purpose? I’m going to find that.”

Children from the Boys and Girls Club of Washington County play at Flander’s Field as the Washington County Public Libraries’ Book Mobile arrives on the basketball court Thursday in the lower west side of Marietta. (Photo by Janelle Patterson)

Andrea Ralston has nearly 20 years in with libraries, including a degree in the work because, she said, of that mission to continue learning and encouraging those she meets to learn to and find joy in reading.

“A lot of the times in places I go there’s this stigma about reading and about the library,” said Ralston. “That if you take too long to read, you’ll be fined. But it’s not that way anymore, I want to bring you what you’re looking for, where you are.”

Out in the hills of Washington County where cell signals and internet don’t reach, she’s found at places like Hune Bridge, in Bloomfield or in Dart, bringing the Washington County Public Libraries’ bookmobile to where residents live.

Thursday, she pulled off of Pearl Street and onto the basketball court in one of Marietta’s neighborhoods where access to knowledge has been the critical piece to recent momentum and community organizing.

“Coming here started as a summer thing that Jackson Patterson asked me to do,” said Ralston. “I decided we needed to continue last fall, and I’ve been back ever since, except for when it snowed.”

Andrea Ralston hands out masks to neighborhood children in the lower west side of Marietta so that they can climb inside the Washington County Public Libraries’ Book Mobile on Thursday. (Photo by Janelle Patterson)

Thursday continued that mission, with Ralston inviting two young sisters, residents of the lower west side, inside the short bus filled with books.

“I like manga,” said Maddison Luke, 14, as she stepped up onto the small bus.

“I like animals,” echoed younger sister Isabel, 11, eyes opening wide as she looked up at the filled shelves.

Ralston explained to the pair that all they needed when she returns in three weeks’ time is an adult with them to sign up for a library card.

“Just that first time you need an adult, then when you have the card you can come to check out books on your own,” she told them. “And there are no late fees anymore, so you can take your time.”


Catch the bookmobile

¯ When: Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays.

¯ Where: Locations dependent on date and time of day.

¯ Public stops coming up:

¯ Wednesday: Layman at United Methodist Church parking lot 11:10-12:10 p.m.; Watertown Dollar General 12:40-2:40 p.m.

¯ Thursday: Stanleyville at the Fearing Volunteer Fire Department 9-10 a.m.; Whipple at Holy Smoke Event Center 10:15-11:15 a.m.; Dalzell at the carryout 11:45 a.m. to 12:45 p.m.; Lower Salem in the parking lot across from the post office 1:15-2:30 p.m.; Lowell Dollar General 3-4:15 p.m.

¯ March 16: Bloomfield by the bridge 12:45-1:30 p.m.; Hune Bridge 1:45-2:30 p.m.; Dart at the fire department 2:45-3:15 p.m.; Moss Run at Beihl’s Store 3:30-4 p.m.

Note: Private facility and school stops are not noted above.

¯ For more information call 740-373-1057 ext. 606 or go to www.wcplib.info/bookstops.

Source: Washington County Public Libraries.


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