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RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

There was a time when libraries would reach out to readers by sending bookmobiles to school parking lots, city street corners and rural byways. Now, those rolling reading rooms are becoming scarce - too costly and outmoded, some say. But one town in northern New England is struggling to keep its bookmobile on the road. Charlotte Albright of Vermont Public Radio has the story.

CHARLOTTE ALBRIGHT, BYLINE: If you want to hear first-hand what it's like to go through a whole month without a single visit from the bookmobile, just ask the preschoolers at Stay and Play, a day care center in Lyndonville, Vermont.

UNIDENTIFIED CHILD #1: 'Cause we miss the bookmobile.

UNIDENTIFIED CHILD #2: Yeah, we miss the bookmobile until it comes here. I miss it a lot more.

UNIDENTIFIED CHILD #1: I miss it a lot more.

ALBRIGHT: Now that the bookmobile has broken down, librarians have to bring books in their own cars for story hour. Day care provider Anneka Bickford says that's not as thrilling as having a big brightly painted vehicle roll into the driveway and open its doors wide so kids can browse and choose their own books.

ANNEKA BICKFORD: It's getting the children involved with what a library is, how to check out books, how to return books. They would do programs with the children, singing, dancing, themes. So, it's the excitement of the library that we can't give to the children.

ALBRIGHT: It's not the first bookmobile to bite the dust. In fact, over the years Vermont's large fleet has dwindled to three or four. Lyndonville's Head Librarian, Cindy Karasinski, says replacement costs have skyrocketed.

CINDY KARASINSKI: The first bookmobile was out of the dump. New bookmobiles, when this was new, it was over $90,000. So, I mean, that seems not be not the way we're going to go.

ALBRIGHT: Sadly, Karasinski says, the kind of grants that used to fund bookmobiles have all but dried up. But one Vermont librarian remembers when rolling libraries were all the rage, even a little scandalous, for single librarians. Ninety-two-year-old Eleanor Simons drove one around back in the '40s. Her great aunt had something to say about that.

ELEANOR SIMONS: Intimate, isn't it? Well, the idea of riding around all day with a strange man, that's what she thought was intimate, of course.

ALBRIGHT: But for Simons it was a dream job. She hopes Lyndonville puts a bookmobile back on the road. For NPR News, I'm Charlotte Albright, in Lyndonville, Vermont.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

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