Bookmobiles on federal chopping block

Courtesy photo
Bookmobiles, that come to Eureka and other rural towns, are in danger of having their funding cut.

By Teri Vance

A retired park ranger, Pete Gill now spends his days driving the Bookmobile, delivering library books around Lincoln County.

He spends the bulk of his time at elementary schools in Panaca, Pioche and Caliente.

“The kids are usually excited to see me,” Gill said. “Sometimes I’ll go into a school and announce I’m here. Then I have to run back because the kids are already streaming out.”

He’s equally excited to see them.

“I like kids so I love this job,” he said. “It gives me a chance to visit. Most of the kids, I know their parents. I get to ask how their families are doing.”

Across Nevada, there are three Bookmobiles, delivering library services to some of the most remote places in Elko, Lander, Eureka, Humboldt and Lincoln counties.

They are funded through state grants and federal funding from the Institute of Museum and Library Services, which President Trump has proposed cutting as part of his budget plan.

President Trump’s plan calls for the elimination of the $230 million budget for the Institute of Museum and Library Services along with three other cultural agencies — the National Endowment for the Arts, the National Endowment for the Humanities and the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.

Nancy Neff, a Ruby Valley native, grew up checking out books from the Bookmobile, which stops at the three-room school about 70 miles from Elko.

“As a rural person, I know our way of life is less and less relevant to lawmakers all the time,” she said. “But, contrary to some people’s beliefs, we are not uneducated, and we do wish our children to be educated. It is nice to have books delivered to us.”

Ginny Dufurrena, who lives on a ranch 75 miles outside of Winnemucca, has driven the Humboldt County Bookmobile for 17 years.

Her longest route is a 168-mile round trip to Kings River, including 18 miles of gravel road ending at a two-room school house. She also serves Imlay, Orvada, Paradise Valley and stops at different ranches and a general store along the way.

“I’m a pretty big deal,” she said. “I’m right up there with the Schwan’s man.”

Over the nearly two decades she’s driven the Bookmobile, Dufurrena has seen kids grow up and bring their own kids to check out books. The service is popular not just with children, but adults as well.

“It’s not uncommon for someone to flag me down, jump off the tractor and climb through the fence,” she related. “They run up and say, ‘I need some more of those playaways (audio books).’”

Cyndi O, director of the Humboldt County library, called the Bookmobile “massively” important.

“The majority of the Humboldt County population lives in outlying rural areas,” she said. “The Bookmobile is really a lifeline to them. They get not only books, audio books and movies, they also get news. They get an opportunity to catch up and socialize, find out what’s going on in town.”

Dufurrena is happy to provide the service.

“I’ve grown rich through this job,” Dufurrena said, “not monetarily, but through people and experience.”

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