The new resource not only looks cool, it will provide plenty of information, education and opportunity.

It will be hard to miss the Molalla Public Library's recently arrived bookmobile.

The brand-new, 24-foot sprinter van has a distinctively cool wrap on it, featuring bright colors and a healthy dose of Sasquatch mixed in.

And that's only one of the reasons Molalla Public Library Director Diana Hadley is excited about this new resource.

The bookmobile concept is one that has reemerged in the 2020s, and Hadley is anxious to explore its potential in the Molalla area.

COURTESY PHOTO: DIANA HADLEY - Molalla Mayor Scott Keyser connects with Sasquatch during the Molalla City Council's tour of the Molalla Public Library's new bookmobile.

"I am so grateful to Molalla City Manager Dan Huff and the Molalla City Council for believing in this dream and purchasing this bookmobile," Hadley said. "They approved the ARPA (American Rescue Plan Act) funds that made this possible."

The van has plenty of unique and custom-made elements to it, bringing the price tag to about $225,000, according to Hadley. Now, she is ready for her and her staff to put that investment to good use.

The bookmobile made its debut recently at Celebrate Molalla, then will attend some back-to-school events within the district this week. Hadley said there is a lot of ground to cover within the library's district — and a lot of need.

"Our service area is more than 26,000 people, not just the city of Molalla proper," she said, noting that the district extends to the Marion County line to the southwest, Beavercreek, Mulino and into Colton. "And most of it is unincorporated."

COURTESY PHOTO: DIANA HADLEY - Jody Newland and Terry Shankle check out the many aspects of the new Molalla Public Library bookmobile last week.

The van will hold bits and pieces of "our collection to encourage people to come to the library in Molalla or utilize online services," Hadley said. "We are going to be taking it out to provide outreach opportunities within our district. We'll be going to schools, preschools, elder care and other underserved populations."

The goal, Hadley said, is to get more people involved in library services. Of those 26,000 people in the library's district, Hadley said only about a quarter have library cards.

"We would love to increase those numbers," she said. "We really want to offer services to underserved areas and provide information to businesses, schools and other areas. We now have a vehicle to go to events so people can get a glimpse of what our collection might be."

The traditional view of the "bookmobile" is of a van filled with books. And while Molalla's new van will offer some of that, the main purpose is to be a resource for people who want to access the many aspects of the library.

The van itself is equipped with plenty of technology, as well as auxiliary batteries, exterior lights, a "smart" awning, PA system, wheelchair lift, bus door and more.

"This is a very specialized vehicle," Hadley said, who noted that the bookmobile concept is returning around the country. "We were incredibly fortunate. We started this last October, and we took delivery last week. That's amazing turnaround time because now they are taking 12 to 18 months. We were very fortunate."

The goal is to get the van out a couple times a month as the library gets used to having it and understanding where and when it should be used. There are four trained drivers — no specialized CDL license is needed — with a fifth on the way.

"Ideally, we want to go slow at the start, so we know that what we want to do is sustainable," Hadley said. "We don't want to make a lot of promises and not be able to do it."

The van wrap was designed by Beth DeWise out of Cottage Grove and has drawn plenty of excited appreciation from those who have seen it.

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