CHARLESTON, W.Va. - In March, 2,440 people checked out 3,937 materials from one of the Kanawha County library system's branches.
But all those books and DVDs didn't change hands in brick and mortar buildings, or even the trailer that serves as the library's Marmet branch. No, these books were checked out in 26 streets or parking lots across the Kanawha Valley.
The Kanawha County library system's mobile library, fondly called the "bookmobile" by its patrons and handlers, has been a part of the library system for more than 50 years.
One of the library's quirkiest and most well-loved features, the bookmobile spends the week traveling the Kanawha Valley, positioning itself to serve library patrons in the nooks and hollows far from any traditional library branch.
But like nearly all of the Kanawha County library's services, it may be in danger. In the scramble for funding since a state Supreme Court ruling struck down the law that provided 40 percent of the library's funding through the county school board, library administrators have examined all of their services, looking for places to make cuts.
The board has considered selling the mobile library, one of a slew of cost-cutting measures, but hasn't taken bold action yet. The school board agreed last week to continue funding the library through the end of this fiscal year in June.
So for now, the bookmobile is still up to the same routine - traversing the county's country roads, parking in some of its most rural locations, and waiting for an hour or a few for patrons to show up.
One recent afternoon, while the bookmobile was parked beside the post office in Hansford, Dana Hambrick came with four of her six children. They're all home schooled just two blocks away, and Hambrick visits the mobile library nearly every time it's in Hansford to visit to pick up books to use in lessons, and a few for fun.
Her 4-year-old son, David, made a stack of kids' books and DVDs he wanted while her daughter Lauren, 9, sat on the floor reading a book about rabbits. The 3-month-old baby slept soundly.
"We drive to the Riverside library some, but it's not very often. This is just a lot easier than loading everybody into the car," she said. "I couldn't tell you the last time I was at the library in Charleston."
While she was there she chatted with 76-year-old Betty Wendell, who lives nearby in Pratt. Wendell often visits the bookmobile in Hansford, and sometimes when it's at Pratt Elementary School. In the winter she rarely dares the winding roads to get to the nearest branch in Riverside.
"I hope and pray they don't take it out," she said. "We need it."
There was also Jerry Smith, 75, who visits the bookmobile and local branches so often that Cathy Pierce, manager of the bookmobile and several other branches, joked with him about who was following whom around all week.