Curry County resident Marjorie Simonton can’t wait for the bookmobile to stop in Grady each month.
With staffing shortage issues, she may be waiting as long as two months for the next batch of books to appease her need to read. The bookmobile won’t be able to make its previously scheduled trip around Curry County next week.
The New Mexico state library operates three bookmobiles that target library and information services to people in underserved and rural communities. Each bookmobile serves a region of the state.
Joy Poole with the New Mexico State Library said the Bookmobile East that serves eight counties — Curry, Eddy, Chavez, Roosevelt, Guadalupe, Lincoln, Otero and Quay — is usually staffed by three people. Two employees retired, one in December and one in May, leaving one person to run the bookmobile. Poole said it is unsafe for one person to drive the bus around the state alone.
“We need at least two to safely run the bookmobile,” she said. “We’ve had to temporarily stop the services until we rehire.”
Poole said while the library has been working to rehire staff, there are few qualified candidates.
“There is not a library science school here in New Mexico,” she said. “We’re looking for people with some college experience, who have skill sets in customer service, filing, database management and computer skills. It is also important to provide good paying jobs for people who live in rural communities.”
Poole said the rural bookmobile program has been operating in New Mexico for 50 years. The program is funded by the state, partially by the federal government and receives a small amount from Curry County.
In Curry County, the bookmobile stops in Grady, Melrose and Texico. Poole said in Grady and Melrose alone there are 136 card-carrying patrons that regularly use the bookmobile. In the past year, they’ve visited the bookmobile 340 times and checked out 2,500 books.
Patrons can register for a card for the bookmobile by visiting the bookmobile, Poole said.
Simonton, who lives outside Grady, said she has visited the bookmobile on each of its trips through the town for the past 25 years.
“I’ve always been an avid reader,” she said. “You can also get videos and books on tape. I really love to do that (listen to a book on tape) if I have to drive long distances. Especially living out here where we’re an hour away from anything.”
Simonton said news about the bookmobile’s recent limitations is sad.
“For people, for us, who live so far away, it’s awful,” she said.
Simonton said the bookmobile is convenient and the staff is accommodating. She said on several occasions she was doing research and needed a few books that were rare.
“They’ll find books for me,” she said. “I wanted to read a Quran and the next time they came around, they had one.”
Simonton said she is no stranger to living in rural areas. Before moving to Curry County 25 years ago, she lived in Alaska.
“One of the first things I would do is go to the nearest town and get a library card. Getting the books back is the difficult part, especially now with the cost of fuel,” Simonton said.