Allegheny County Library Association’s New Preschool Bookmobile

The Allegheny County Library Association (ACLA), along with distinguished guests, unveiled the newest bookmobile in its fleet on September 11th. County Executive Rich Fitzgerald and Regional Asset District Chairman Dan Griffin were joined by dozens of preschool students and community members for the ceremony and tour of the new bookmobile.

The new vehicle is an integral part of ACLA Mobile Library Services’ preschool outreach program, which serves 55 classrooms during the school year and 15 in the summer months throughout Allegheny County. The bookmobile was purchased primarily from the generous donation of $150,000 from The Buncher Foundation.

“I have long been an advocate for literacy and early childhood learning,” said County Executive Rich Fitzgerald. “These types of specialized programs offered by our public libraries through the Allegheny County Library Association have made a measurable impact on our youth and residents of all ages.”

ACLA Mobile Library Services’ preschool outreach program primarily works in conjunction with three existing programs – Head Start, Title 1, and Discovery, Assessment, Referral and Tracking (DART). The Head Start program works with local public and private non-profit and for-profit agencies to provide comprehensive child development services with an emphasis on preschool children. Title 1 programs are administered by the U.S. Department of Education and distribute funding to schools and school districts with a high percentage of students from low-income families. The Allegheny Intermediate Unit’s DART program, works with children ages three to five, who have developmental delays or disabilities.

Each bookmobile visit involves engaging the children and caregivers through a 20-30 minute visit in the classroom that is comprised of stories, songs and activities. The teachers are left with handouts for their use and copies to send home with the children that contain a list of stories and songs from the visit, as well as activity and craft ideas based on the stories and literacy tips to be used at home. The children and caregivers then visit the bookmobile to select books to borrow, and curriculum support materials, theme bags and teacher resource materials are available for the caregivers on the bookmobile.

“RAD is proud to support the bookmobile, a crucial connection between underserved communities and library services,” said Daniel J. Griffin, chair of the RAD board. “From advancing early literacy skills for preschoolers to getting books to seniors with limited mobility, the bookmobile provides an important service that traditional brick and mortar libraries cannot.”

Allegheny County’s bookmobile program has been in operation since 1952 and consists of 3 routes. The bookmobiles visit locations throughout the County each day serving seniors, preschools and various communities. In 2016 the bookmobiles traveled 16,633 miles to 1,161 stops, and circulated 67,921 items.

“Our bookmobiles have served as an extension of ACLA’s 73 library location throughout the County,” said ACLA’s Executive Director Marilyn Jenkins. “Today’s libraries have many more resources and programming than ever and are better positioned to meet the increased demand for services in education and community enhancement.”