Revamped and Revitalized: Changes to Utah State Library’s Bookmobile Program

In rural Utah, where the distances between towns can be vast and the population sparse, the bookmobile is not just a vehicle; it’s a symbol of access to knowledge. The Utah State Library Bookmobile Program offers rural Utahns access to books, computers, and a plethora of online learning resources. Not only do the bookmobiles serve rural citizens, they also visit institutions such as schools, Head Start programs, and senior citizen centers.  


Funded by counties and the Utah State Library, this program serves those who do not have access to a “brick and mortar” library. Currently, the Utah State Library has five bookmobiles serving eight counties. 

Residents of Iron County are served by The Iron County Bookmobile. Kane County and Garfield County are served by the MultiCounty Bookmobile. The Tri-County Bookmobile serves Sevier County, Piute County, and Wayne County. The Sanpete County Bookmobile serves Sanpete County, and the Utah County Bookmobile serves residents of the Town of Vernon, Indianola in Sanpete County, and of course, Utah County.

When the bookmobile program was founded in 1957, rural Utah was a lot different. You’d be surprised to discover that the Utah State Library Bookmobile Program has been essentially the same for 67 years! Times are changing. Rural Utah deserves better and the Utah State Library is rising to the challenge. 

“The bookmobile program has been functioning in the same way for decades, and things change, communities change, and budgets definitely change. We’re growing and evolving to meet those changes,” said Marie Erickson, library resources program manager at the Utah State Library. “We’re finding the same model that has been used for the past 60-plus years isn’t the right fit for some of our communities. We’re exploring new ways to provide library services to our rural communities that have not been able to maintain or financially support the traditional model of the bookmobile program.” 


While some of the changes are still in the works, others are already proving valuable. “Some of the changes that we’re making in some of the bookmobiles is that we are centralizing acquisitions and cataloging,” Erickson says. “We’re hoping this will free up some of the bookmobile staff to do outreach and programming with their communities.” Library Resources staff, located at the Utah State Library in Salt Lake City, are taking on more of the bookmobile workload, and it’s giving them a stronger connection to the program and their co-workers out in the field. The bookmobile staff are feeling more supported, too. 

A smiling woman takes a selfie in front of a bookmobile as the sun shines down upon her

“Every book is a world, and driving the bookmobile means I am bringing hundreds of worlds to areas that may be more isolated: rural communities, senior centers, group homes, youth centers, and neighborhoods that are off the beaten path. At the same time, every stop opens a new world to me: a new face, a new conversation and a new view from my office window.” 

Laurie Rigby, Iron County Bookmobile Librarian 

Besides updating services, the Utah State Library’s Bookmobile Program has recently gone through a lot of staffing changes. Erickson explained that Shawn Bliss, who was the Bookmobile Librarian for Utah County, took a director position at the Smithfield Public Library, and Becky Lopshire, Pat Tompkins, and Jim Ericksen retired. We have hired new drivers for the Tri-County, Utah County, and Iron County Bookmobiles: Leon Webb in Tri County, Dustin Lyon in Utah County, and Laurie Rigby in Iron County,” Erickson says. 

Cristina Reyes, rural services and bookmobile program specialist is excited to work with her new staff members and the unique perspective and experience they bring to their jobs. “They are truly a dynamic bunch!” exclaims Reyes. “They are service-oriented, people-focused, and committed to promoting library services across rural Utah.”

In a world where information is key, Utah State Library’s Bookmobile Program is a valuable resource for rural Utahns. With the help of the new staff members, Utah State Library is researching more ways to better serve rural Utah through its bookmobile program.