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As new LA County Library branch opens, bookmobile winds down

The Las Virgenes Bookmobile parked at Seminole Springs Mobile Home Park in Agoura Hills.
The Las Virgenes Bookmobile parked at Seminole Springs Mobile Home Park in Agoura Hills.
Kevin Ferguson/KPCC

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Earlier this year, yet another library in Los Angeles County opened in a state-of-the-art building in Topanga.

While new libraries are always a great thing for a neighborhood, as more branches open, there's less of a need for bookmobiles — the roving library branches designed to serve the outskirts of L.A. County. Friday, Feb. 24 marked the last run for the L.A. County Library's Las Virgenes bookmobile, which served areas like Topanga, Malibu and Hidden Hills. There are now just four left in the county.

“It’s a movable library,” said Malibu library assistant William Lippincott. “It’s a way for the public to get library materials that live in rural areas, that can’t travel, for whatever reason, to a brick and mortar library. We provide the service to them, as opposed to them coming to us.”

Lippincott said he’s sad the Las Virgenes bookmobile will be discontinued, but people no longer need its services with Topanga library close by. “A lot of people enjoy it. A lot of people, though, are happy that they have an actual brick-and-mortar library that they can go to with more hours,” he continued. “But there’s a connection and a bond with the public that we’ll miss.”

Many of the Seminole Springs residents who boarded the bookmobile on its final day have been longtime patrons. Wendy McCann browsed for her usual fare.

“I usually pick a book on tape, and one or two books, a cookbook and something else, and then I get several videos to last for the week,” she explained.

McCann said everyone in the mobile home park loves the movable library. “It’s an excuse to walk up, it gets you out, it makes sure that you get books. In a couple weeks, whatever I get today’s going to be due, and I’m sure I won’t go as often."

Twelve-year patron Iris Speed had no idea that the bookmobile would not be coming back. She was trying to arrange a weekly carpool to the bookmobile after she lost her license and her husband passed away.

“I’m not reading as much — I used to check out six and eight books at a time; virtually every week I was here. Since my husband died, I find there are a lot more things I have to do.”

Though Speed is only looking to check out one book and renew another, she seems sure that the bookmobile will return.

“I do hope that it won’t be a long time before they reinstate the bookmobile. They have done this many times before, closed it down, and later brought it back up.”