Local teacher opens new bookmobile

Batman has the Batmobile. The Yeti probably has some sort of snowmobile. And now kids in Webster City have access to a new bookmobile.

Diane Bahrenfuss usually teaches 3rd Grade at Sunset Heights Elementary during the school year, and this year she has added one more job to her itinerary for the summer.

Inspired by the Ames Public Library’s bookmobile, Bahrenfuss started the Webster City Community School District’s first bookmobile.

“I go to Ames nearly every day for my daughter’s gymnastics practice at ISU,” she said. “I started noticing their bookmobile around town in different locations on different days.”

Bahrenfuss made a few visits to the bookmobile to ask them questions and to look at how they set up the interior of their bookmobile.

“I thought it would be a good way to remind kids to read over the summer and to make the books easily accessible,” she said.

Made possible by the Webster City Foundation, the Bookmobile has received many big donations of books to help get the program started.

“Members of the community have been so supportive,” Bahrenfuss said. “People have been donating books that their children have outgrown.”

She said Kendall Young Library members have been very supportive.

“They donated six boxes of children’s books after the spring Friends of the Library book sale,” she said.

And the University of Iowa College of Education donated over two hundred books from the Curriculum Laboratory.

“If people would like to make book donations, they may drop off books at the Bookmobile on Fridays during the hours of the Food for Summer program,” Bahrenfuss said.

Originally, she carted the books around in her personal van beginning in June, but this week she debuted the new Bookmobile-complete with shelves inside for kids to rummage through for books. Bahrenfuss and her husband Kent worked on the Bookmobile’s remodel themselves.

“[July 9] was my first day with the new Bookmobile,” she said. “The kids were really excited.”

Kids were able to check out books with a very simple checkout system of writing their names on the cards inside each book, she said.

As for the location of the bookmobile, it can be found at the Middle School during the Food for Summer program, as well as a few other locations.

Bahrenfuss is scheduled to be at FEAST at the ACE building on Thursdays, as well as the Middle School and the outdoor pool on Fridays.

During the Food for Summer program, Bahrenfuss reads to small groups of kids, and some kids take the books back to the tables to read while they are finishing their lunches.

“Students seem to enjoy listening to stories and choosing books to take home to read,” she said. “I tell them to return a book when they finish reading it, unless it is so good that they know they will read it over and over. The main thing is to encourage literacy all summer long.”

With the addition of the Bookmobile, Bahrenfuss isn’t trying to replace Kendall Young Library.

“We are so lucky in Webster City to have one of the most beautiful libraries in the state,” she said. “The bookmobile is just a novel way of reminding kids to read a book at the end of every busy summer day.”