Michigan Gateway Community Foundation presents check to aid Little Bucks Bookmobile

Published 12:06 pm Friday, September 25, 2020

BUCHANAN — An oversized check was presented in front of a school bus-turned-library on Sept. 14 in Buchanan.

The Little Bucks Bookmobile’s director Wendy Murphy received the $3,500 grant check from the Michigan Gateway Community Foundation to help with operating costs attached to the mobile library.

The Little Bucks Bookmobile is a nonprofit organization that uses a repurposed school bus to get books, and sometimes more, to areas of the Buchanan community that may not have equal access to the district library and internet. Its executive director, Murphy, is a literary coach at Buchanan Community Schools Ottawa Elementary School.

“Twice a year, we have a grant cycle where 501c3s write grant requests to us,” said MGCF chief executive officer Michael Rowland. “We have never gotten anything from Little Bucks Bookmobile, which was surprising. We were excited when we saw [their application]. Especially in today’s COVID-19 environment, [we saw] the importance of giving tools to our rural and low-income communities and being able to keep that program alive.”

Murphy said the Little Bucks Bookmobile is primarily a summer program, but the operating costs continue throughout the year. Insurance costs for the bus, signage and vehicle decals and tires are all expenses that continue through the rest of the year.

“Because it’s a certain specialty vehicle, only one insurance company will carry it in Michigan,” Murphy said. “When it’s sitting in the winter, you can’t stop your insurance. We have to continue.”

She said the grant the Bookmobile received from the MGCF was unique. Most grant programs do not allow the funds to be used for operating expenses.

During Michigan’s heaviest COVID-19 mandates, the Little Bucks Bookmobile had a busy summer. According to Murphy, the mobile library had more than 300 visitors.

“Even in COVID-19, that is pretty good,” she said.

In the past, the mobile library has started its voyages around the community at Buchanan High School during summer classes and programming.

“We would grab that captive audience,” Murphy said.

This year, they would be onsite when the high school was distributing lunches. After the lunches, Murphy said the bus would travel to other lunch pickup locations and to trailer home communities.

With the Buchanan District Library unable to operate as usual through the COVID-19 mandates, it instead offered virtual services as it could. For community members without reliable internet access, however, the library recognized a limitation.

“This was the first year we were able to coordinate with the public library,” Murphy said. “The library had activity bags they were giving away each week. If parents signed up for that, I was able to deliver those bags out to areas where parents couldn’t come into town. We have a lot of families with only one vehicle, or not even one. They don’t come into town.”

The Little Bucks Bookmobile aims to start its programming back up again in June, when school traditionally is out for the summer. The grant from the MGCF will make it easier for the bus to get back on the road.
“We saw it as a good opportunity to keep up the vehicle,” Rowland said. “[Wendy] has done such a wonderful job of transforming it into something for our com