Taking TADL on The Road

by Miriam June 2, 2021

Promoting literacy and curiosity is at the heart of Traverse Area District Library’s mission. TADL has been awarded a $50,000 Assets for Thriving Communities grant in support of their new Bookmobile. The Bookmobile will bring books, resources, equipment, and educational materials to schools, long-term care facilities, and events throughout Northern Michigan.



Do you remember the Bookmobile from your childhood? In the ’60s and ’70s, libraries across the nation had one, bringing books and educational supplies to schools, events, and care centers. “We’re not sure what happened to our old Bookmobile. It likely fell into disrepair and the service fell to the wayside. This was very common back then, where there was a huge presence of Bookmobiles and then people stopped taking care of them,” said Michele Howard, Director of Traverse Area District Library. She says that through time, more of libraries’ services have relied on people coming to the branch, but with TADL’s new Bookmobile, that’s all about to change.

During the height of the pandemic, the curbside pickup line at Traverse Area District Library’s Traverse City Branch would snake through the parking lot, where a team of librarians ran a relay race, taking returns and passing new books through car windows. This adaptation of the library’s service model allowed them to continue to serve their community safely and meet the pent-up demand after being closed for weeks. But who wasn’t in that line? “Many folks were homebound. The elderly, disabled people, and people without transportation couldn’t get to the branch to access the resources we offer,” said Howard. “Those are the people who need us the most.”

TADL’s new Bookmobile, a customized Sprinter van, will be designed with three different configurations to meet the needs of the communities it visits. The “Classic Bookmobile” will be outfitted with rolling carts filled with books for all ages. People can come inside to browse the selections, or the carts can be rolled down the ramp to set up inside schools, daycare centers, long term care facilities. For many Northern Michigan residents, the nearest library branch is a 20-minute drive away. The Bookmobile will regularly visit these branches, making stops in communities along the way. 




The Bookmobile will bring STEM kits, laptops, and 3D printers to schools and community events in its tech-focused configuration. The library also has plans to outfit the vehicle with laptops and printers, which can be taken to Career Fairs. Patrons can use the laptops to work on their resumes, print them, and apply for jobs, with staff standing by ready to assist. The Bookmobile will also have a wifi hotspot, bringing internet access anywhere it goes. Studies show that access to the internet is an important economic indicator. “It’s hard to find a job these days without the internet,” Howard pointed out. 

What does access to the internet, educational materials, and books mean to the people who lack these resources? “Reading is so pleasurable to people. It brings them so much joy that we see people moved to tears,” said Howard. For many people in long-term care facilities, books are their lifeline to the world outside, “and to run out of books to read can be really tragic.” Reading keeps people active, entertained, and alive. 

Books can be a bridge between people, too. Making a recommendation of a book has the power to open up a conversation between people, offering an opportunity to learn something new. Howard says that bridge can also connect people to others who are worlds away. “Reading is really active listening. You can read someone’s story, from their perspective, without argument or rebuttal. We would have a more peaceful world if people read more books.”

Rotary Charities is proud to support Traverse Area District Library’s Bookmobile with a $50,000 Assets for Thriving Communities grant. Plans are in motion to get the Bookmobile on the road as soon as possible!  Visit for more information to support their work. 

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