Book mobile

Antelope Lending Library to bring books to the people

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March 28, 2014 | 3:28 pm

IOWA CITY — The blue and white bus sat in the middle of the Ped Mall last Saturday, its new logo — Antelope Lending Library Bookmobile — encouraging people to stop and ask questions.

“What it this?”

“Will it work like a regular library with cards and everything?”

“Do you need more books?”

Antelope Lending Library Director Cassandra Elton stood by the bus and answered questions, eager to share the city’s newest mobile library with the public.

“I work at Grant Wood Elementary School’s after-school program and I asked the kids what they like to do when they go downtown,” says Elton, a graduate student at the University of Iowa where she’s studying library science and book arts.

She found out many southeast students rarely visit the city’s center, meaning they rarely visit the Iowa City Public Library.

“There is a high number of single parents and working families in that community, and going downtown isn’t a priority,” Elton says. “These kids don’t have access to great books and a great program.”

Her solution? Bring the books to them — literally.

Partnering with The James Gang and the Iowa Youth Writing Project, Elton set out to create a permanent library space in southeast Iowa City. Elton and supporters launched an online campaign through indiegogo.com, but fell short of their $20,000 goal.

The campaign netted just more than $13,000.

The lack of funding didn’t deter Elton from her plan, but she hadn’t considered a mobile library until she received a phone call from Greg Delzer.

Delzer, owner of Iowa City’s Defunct Books, also owned a school bus that had been converted to have bookshelves and magazine racks attached to the walls — enough space to hold roughly 4,000 titles.

“He had planned to use it before moving out to Sycamore Mall,” Elton says. “When we didn’t meet our goal, he asked if we wanted to buy it.”

About two months have passed since then and library volunteers have been busy promoting Antelope Lending Library, collecting books for its shelves, designing the library’s catalog, developing a database and planning programs.

The library is named after the unofficial mascot of Elton’s library science cohort at the UI — an antelope.

The goal is to launch the library this summer. Antelope Lending Library will be part of Grant Wood Elementary School’s summer program in the morning. Elton is talking with the Iowa City Parks and Recreation Department about afternoon programs, as well as working with the coordinator of Mercer Park Farmers Market.

“We want to have a presence, to be accessible to everyone,” she says.

Children and their parents will be able to check out books, but plans also call for book clubs, story times and writing activities.

“The first thing that comes to mind when I look at the library is awesomeness,” says Catherine Blauvelt, a coordinator with the Iowa Youth Writing Project that will work with the lending library by providing writing and creative learning opportunities to children and teens. Classes will be offered at little to no cost.

“I think it’s really fabulous that we can bring these resources to the community that might not otherwise have access to them,” Blauvelt says.

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Antelope Lending Library

Anyone interested in helping Antelope Lending Library be a success can get involved in several ways. Library Director Cassandra Elton says the library needs more books, funding and volunteers. If you are able to help with any of those items, contact Elton at cassandra@antelopelendinglibrary.org or through the library’s website (antelopelendinglibrary.org).

You can also like Antelope Lending Library on Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/#!/AntelopeLendingLibrary) and follow them on twitter (@AntelopeLibrary) for up-to-date information.

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