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Mobile Library in a Mercedes – Berkeley's Book Van

The Berkeley book van brings library services – like books requested by patrons – to neighborhoods where branch libraries are closed for reconstruction. The weather has a big effect on the number of visitors on a given day.

Patronage at Berkeley's little library on wheels, the city library's book van, is governed by the elements.

"It depends on the weather, especially if it's raining," said Warren Middleton, a supervising library assistant, who manages the van. "It varies. Sometimes we get about 11-17; sometimes we maybe about six."

If you click the "Locations" link on the Berkeley Public Library website, the last branch on a list of seven is the "BranchVan." It's a Mercedes van purchased with funds from Measure FF, which was approved by Berkeley voters in 2008.

The van has a regular schedule of the two places and times where it can be found and is intended to help fill in for closed branches. Currently, it is filling in for the South Branch and the West Branch libraries, which are closed for renovation.

The van serves as a pick-up location for books or other materials that patrons have requested and also accepts returns. It also has a small stock of books inside, mostly children's books but also adult fiction and mysteries, Middleton said.

On the day two weeks ago that Patch stopped by, the van was parked on Allston Way at Ninth Street, next to Rosa Parks School, about six blocks from the closed West Branch.

The sun was shining and the van door was open, as Middleton and an assistant sat in the book bay. During the several minutes that Patch was there, two patrons visited the van. 

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