Santa Clara County Library District bookmobile
The Santa Clara County Library District’s Bookmobile team travels throughout the county to meet people who have little or no access to a library. Photo courtesy of Santa Clara County Library District

Santa Clara County Library District’s pastel-colored rolling library, the Bookmobile, is a welcome sight for readers as it travels throughout the communities of Gilroy, Morgan Hill, Cupertino, Campbell, Milpitas, Saratoga and Los Altos, clocking more than 1,000 miles each month to serve individuals with little or no access to a local library.

“I feel the Bookmobile is important because there are people out in the community who need services, and the people who likely need them the most are less likely to be able to get to the library,” said Amytha Willard, Supervising Librarian of Bookmobile Services and recipient of the Karen Hake Outstanding Bookmobile Librarian award. “The library is a great bridge to all the resources that are available and free. To be able to provide those services to people out on the road and bring it to them, it’s the extra step of a helping hand.”

Since 1953, the Bookmobile program has been a valuable resource to communities all throughout Santa Clara County, and an immediate hit providing 40 stops to outlying areas where no branches were established. Soon a second Bookmobile followed, and a third in 1958, which extended service to more than 100 sites.

Up until 1978 the Bookmobile program flourished, but with the passing of Proposition 13, a disruption in service resulted. In Willard’s 18-year association with the Bookmobile, she’s experienced “quite a few reductions over time,” she said, adding, even in hard times they always found ways to continue to serve the community.

In 1981, the service was relegated to one Bookmobile, with only bi-weekly service available. The Bookmobile services changed and transformed throughout the ‘80s and ‘90s due to funding and changing social patterns, including the growth of preschools and retirement communities. By 2005, the focus had switched to geographically remote patrons, and patrons with limited mobility as well as special needs patrons. In addition, the service was cut to four days a week and the number of stops reduced to 34.

Today, the Bookmobile service runs Monday through Friday throughout nearly every community in Santa Clara County, including unincorporated pockets of San Jose, making a total of 51 stops in all.

Bookmobile team member Eileen Watley said she loves serving the communities. 

“You see the same people and you build relationships,” she said. “Everybody is so happy to see us and we’re happy to see them. It’s sort of like family.”

Santa Clara County Library District bookmobile Amytha Willard
Amytha Willard, standing next to one of the Bookmobile vehicles, is the Supervising Librarian of Bookmobile Services. Contributed photo

In addition to scores of books in English and Spanish, the Bookmobile offers movies, music and a multitude of free resources to its patrons. Among its regular stops is the Santa Clara County Office of Education’s Chandler Tripp School, which provides preschool education for students who are blind or deaf or have other special needs. 

“We put out playthings to interact with, and we bring our robots out there,” Willard said.

The mobile units aren’t the only service provided by the Bookmobile. Digital help to residents of senior centers has been a recent addition. 

“I go to different retirement communities, and I help seniors with their laptops, or their phones or iPads,” said Itzel Enriquez, a two-year member of the Bookmobile team. “It’s actually been very well-received.”

At the height of the pandemic, the library, a crucial outlet for entertainment and enrichment for its patrons, was no longer accessible to those that were home-bound. The answer to that problem was Book Dash, a once-a-month home delivery service of library materials. 

Seven-year Bookmobile team member Mark Tomacci maintains a list of Book Dash patrons who have standing orders. 

“So, he knows what they want, and the authors, and he keeps a running list to keep ordering materials for them,” Willard said.

The program currently serves more than 60 patrons, with more joining every week.

“There’s definitely an interest because I don’t think there is any other library system that is doing this service,” said Jeannie Takagi-Hsu, a recent addition to the Bookmobile staff.

The pandemic emphasized the need for Wi-Fi access, and Willard hopes to soon offer computers and Wi-Fi to their patrons. 

“We’re striving for that,” she said.

The success of the Bookmobile, according to Willard, is her team. 

“We wouldn’t be able to do this without them, they are the best team ever,” Willard said. “Everyone has a specialty, and everyone works together and contributes.”

A testament of their success is the recent Morgan Hill Community Foundation EAH Housing award that credits Willard and her team with “Unconditional commitment and enduring dedication.” In addition, the Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors awarded a commendation for the Bookmobile’s service and dedication to improving the quality of life for county residents.

For information about the Bookmobile or Book Dash, visit or call 408.883.6959.

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