As a newly elected county councillor, I have been spending the summer getting to know council services better, and I recently had an afternoon on the Mobile Library bus with Ally Clarke, the Mobile Library Manager.
After a slight blip due to a delayed train, I’m pleased to see the mobile bus drive into Shepreth Station to pick me up, and Ally welcomes me on board. Ally’s been doing the job for an amazing 23 years, and has known some of the readers since they were small children. Nevertheless, she still has incredible levels of enthusiasm and energy – plus new ideas.
She showed me round the bus – kitted out with a good range, comprising various genres of fiction, non-fiction including lots of biography, audio books and magazines. There’s also plenty of large-print and children’s books.
Many of the readers are older people, but there are also a lot of people with young children. During term time, the bus stops at schools as classes finish, so that children can choose their own books. The mobile library service runs on a monthly cycle. Mobile library readers are allowed longer than the standard borrowing period, in order to read their books to fit in with the schedule.
We are on Route 23 today, 4th Tuesday of the month. It went to Whaddon, Meldreth and Melbourn this morning and I am joining it for the afternoon.
2 o’clock, first stop Frog End. No readers here unfortunately, despite a few beeps and drive-pasts. Either the residents of Frog End are all out enjoying the late summer sunshine, or perhaps they are in the middle of a good book that they can’t put down.
We go on to Blenheim Close, a sheltered housing area – this is busier. A charming mother & toddler daughter come on board with a pet monkey, and some new members sign up for the library. Other people come on to return books, and one lady is collecting books for herself and audio tapes for her mother.
We’re a little late at Barrington as the bus is flagged down by a lorry driver for directions. Other traffic waits very patiently for us to pass – much more civilized than where I live!
We are near a bus shelter in Barrington. A queue swiftly builds up, with a mixture of parents with young children and older folk. It is clearly a community meeting spot, and people exchange local news and views. There’s a discussion about a recent planning consent for an eco-house behind the old Guildhall, a beautiful thatched building opposite us.
I meet a retired couple who used to run the village shop, which fortunately is still open. Several people make it plain how ‘vital’ the mobile library service is.
Last stop, Glebe Road Barrington. We see three ladies, a visiting schoolboy and one gentleman. In conversation, I learn he’s starred in a film about nearby Wimpole Hall.
I am impressed by the huge and heavy piles of books that people are bringing on board the bus; they are clearly voracious readers. You can see very well how difficult it would be to carry that number of volumes around town if you had to go into Cambridge Central Library.
A very interesting and enjoyable day, thank you to Ally.
For anyone reading this who would like to use the mobile library service, visit the Cambridgeshire County Council website and key in your postcode in the Local services section on the right. Then select ‘Mobile Libraries’ in the Leisure & Culture menu option on the left when the map appears.