What has four wheels and is visited by the likes of Captain Ahab, The Great Gatsby, or Alex Cross?
A bookmobile of course! East Hartford, Conn. residents have enjoyed having a library with a bookmobile for years, but approximately six months ago their bookmobile was halted. Residents of East Hartford, Connecticut are soon to be reintroduced to this treat. On May 22, 2013, the East Hartford Rotary presented the East Hartford Library with their new bookmobile wrapped with custom vinyl graphics.
Each year the Rotary Club performs a community needs assessment. In March 2012, Sheryl O’Connor, President of the East Hartford Rotary Club, met with Mayor Marcia Leclerc and learned of the need for a new bookmobile. East Hartford’s Raymond Library was scheduled for a two year renovation. During this time books and other assets would be housed throughout town and would be transported using the town’s older bookmobile. “The Town’s current Bookmobile is a used police van. It was in a state of disrepair, required a special license to operate and was very difficult to drive, load and unload,” stated O’Connor. She decided to make a new bookmobile the Rotary Club’s community project to continue to “engage people in literacy.”
Sheryl O’Connor and club members Mary Martin and Jack Sayre began putting a plan in motion. Originally, the Rotary club was going to partner with Freightliner of Hartford and Goodwin College of East Hartford to purchase a used Sprinter van. In November of 2012, Frank Wargo a Rotarian with connections in India suggested he introduce O’Connor to his friend, Binod Khaitan, Foundation Chair for the Rotary Club of Central Calcutta. Together the clubs applied for a Matching Grant from the Rotary Foundation in order to raise the necessary funds to purchase a new Sprinter van. The grant was approved and the Rotary Club of Calcutta Maidan joined in and donated additional funds for the project. The final decision was to convert a new Freightliner Sprinter into a bookmobile both inside and out.
Once the internal transformation of the Sprinter was complete, it was time to address the outside. It was decided to have the van wrapped with vehicle graphics. In order to draw both younger and mature patrons, the Rotary Clubs and the Library wanted to ensure that the bookmobile would have a fun yet professional feel. “The Rotary Club wanted to have the vehicle signed in a visually engaging way – and to have the van protected over many years of service in the future,” stated O’Connor. Time was a critical factor and with the advice from Kevin Bigliazzi of Freightliner of Hartford, O’Connor contacted Merritt Graphics.
Merritt Graphics, the large format printing division of Joseph Merritt Company headquartered in Hartford, CT, was hired to design, print and install the graphics on a tight schedule. Merritt performed the installation at Freightliner of Hartford where the van was housed during its transformation. The final design is an illustration depicting grass and sky with a tower of books stacked into the clouds. A little red robin, the official State of CT bird, is perched on the word Bookmobile. Ed Perry, CEO and President of Joseph Merritt Company, commented about the timeline, “We typically have a quick turnaround time, but we were willing to jump through hoops as needed to meet the demands of wrapping this Sprinter. It is a more than worthy cause and we were delighted to be a part of this project.”
On May 22, 2013, the new bookmobile was revealed at a ribbon cutting ceremony hosted by the East Hartford Rotary Club at Freightliner of Hartford. The ceremony was attended by local dignitaries including Mayor Leclerc, local Rotarians, representatives from the Town of East Hartford library and government, and members of the participating organizations. Project members from the Rotary Club of Central Calcutta attended the event via Skype and displayed on a large screen to ensure everyone who played a major role in the bookmobile project had the ability to see the culmination of their efforts.