Beep! Beep! Make way for Olympia’s newest interactive art installation. The Olympia Timberland Library, in partnership with local artists, recently revealed the bookmobile – a place for kids to drive their imaginations further.
Built by local woodworker Jay T. Scott, the bookmobile has two steering wheels, windows, and seating for both kids and adults to enjoy a cozy place to read, chat, or play. Local artist Ira Coyne painted an otter and hand-lettered words and a poem on the side, and local artist/author Nikki McClure painted playful otters on the back.
This is the library’s first permanent interactive art piece, says Mary Rulewicz, senior librarian in youth services, noting that the bookmobile will encourage the kind of imaginative play studies show is an important part of youth development.
She also notes that the bookmobile helps build community.
“The library is a wonderful meeting place and I’ve seen so many little friendships start around the bookmobile,” she remarks. “It just adds to the happy environment.”
Rulewicz, who has worked for the library for 25 years, was inspired to build a bookmobile after seeing its success at a national library conference. She brought the idea to Scott, a talented local woodworker and friend of the library. It wasn’t long before local artists McClure and Coyne jumped on board.
“I am continually reminded what an amazing library Olympia has and I’m happy to live in a community that supports its special places, creative industries and local artists,” says Scott. “This is the kind of project that can happen in supportive communities – people collaborate just because they want to make their place a little better.”
Coyne, who has collaborated with Scott in the past, including making a sign for the library, agrees.
“My mother used to leave me in the kids section at the downtown Knoxville library for hours,” he shares. “I’ll always remember it as one of ‘my’ places, it was impressionable. So I wanted to give back to that experience.”
“I think all of our societal problems stem from a broken education system,” he continues. “Just the fact that our schools and libraries are underfunded is sad. Sometimes we can be in a position to help nurture programs and that always pays off compared to waiting for someone else to fix the problem.”
The artists’ positivity is evident in their design of the bookmobile. McClure’s painting of otters swimming underwater evokes a sense of playfulness, the bus’s size and durability is welcoming, and the poem written on the side speaks of courage and mindfulness.
“The more you read the more you know
The more you know the smarter you grow
The smarter you grow the stronger your voice
When speaking your mind or making your choice.”
Another encouraging message – “You Otter Be Reading” – is hand-lettered on the side of the bookmobile, and adds to the theme of otters the library seems to be developing.
In the library’s atrium there are massive pieces of serpentine sculpted into otters and local printmaker Mimi Williams donated an art piece featuring otters.
“We all came in for a brainstorm and we decided on the otters,” recalls Rulewicz. “We thought it was only natural to put otters on it – Nikki’s on the back and Ira’s on the side.”
“For us the library is the community’s living room – we’re right downtown,” she continues, “any piece of art is enjoyed by so many different people. It’s wonderful to have the support and the love of the local artists.”
She says watching the group effort of the artists was one of the biggest joys of the bookmobile project, aside from watching the children enjoy it now.
“The kids are loving it,” she says, “It’s always loaded with kids reading.”
Visit the new bookmobile during library hours: Monday and Tuesday 11:00 a.m. – 8:00 p.m., Wednesday and Thursday 11:00 a.m. – 7:00 p.m., Friday 10:00 a.m. – 6:00 p.m. and Saturday 10:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m. The library is closed on Sunday. Learn more about the Olympia library’s ongoing programs and special events for all ages here.
Just For Fun: Click on the image below to watch this cute GIF of the bookmobile assembly, created by Sara White, youth librarian at the Olympia library.