, Salem, MA

February 25, 2013

Auction a new chapter for bookmobile


---- — BEVERLY — It’s a 1987 Ford with 108,401 miles and just as many stories.

The Beverly Public Library bookmobile, which lumbered through the city’s neighborhoods for 25 years delivering books to eager children and housebound elders, is for sale.

The bookmobile was shelved last year when the city bought a new one. It has been sitting idly in the library driveway ever since, displaced from its warm and safe spot in the garage by its $150,000 successor.

Earlier this month, the city put the old bookmobile up for sale on Municibid, an online auction site for government agencies to sell off surplus items.

“I’ll be sad to see it go,” said Linda Caravaggio, who drove the bookmobile from 1988, the year after it arrived, until last year. “I’ll miss it. There’s a lot of memories.”

As of last night, the high bid for the vehicle was $1,116. The auction closes Thursday at 9 p.m.

Library Director Pat Cirone said she’s gotten a couple of calls from one community that might be interested in starting a bookmobile program.

David Gelineau, the city’s purchasing director, said somebody else is thinking about turning it into a food truck.

“It’d be great for a caterer because it’s big and heavy,” he said.

Cirone said she has received calls in the past from people who expressed interest in using it as their own backyard library.

“I’m intrigued,” Cirone said. “Who’s going to wind up with it and why?”

Beverly is one of the few cities or towns in the state to have a bookmobile. When the old one started breaking down, the community rallied to raise $150,000 for a new one.

With Caravaggio still behind the wheel, the new bookmobile is on the road every Monday through Thursday, stopping at schools, assisted-living centers, parks and neighborhoods. It loans out about 66,000 items per year, nearly 17 percent of the library’s total circulation.

Cirone said more communities are considering bookmobiles to reach an aging population of baby boomers. Representatives from Portland, Maine, recently visited to study how Beverly runs its program.

Caravaggio has a quarter-century’s worth of history with the old bookmobile, but her nostalgia doesn’t outweigh the conveniences of the new vehicle.

“It’s wonderful,” she said. “It’s much easier to maneuver. It’s a little longer and wider. And it has heat and air conditioning.”

Nobody’s quite sure how much money the old bookmobile will fetch. There’s rust on the wheel wells, body and doors. As the ad says, the vehicle “runs but needs work.”

On the other hand, if you want a bookmobile, this is probably your only chance. Greg Berry, the CEO and founder of Municibid, said this is the first time that his site has auctioned off a bookmobile.

On Friday, when the high bid was $735, Gelineau said he expected the bidding to go quite a bit higher. It doesn’t cost the city anything to use the auction site, and officials can reject the bids if they’re too low.

“It’s probably worth more than $700 in scrap value,” Gelineau said.

Cirone, for one, doesn’t want it to end up in the scrap heap. She’s hoping it lasts forever, like a good book.

“It would make us feel good to have it go to somebody who wants to use it and get some benefit out of it,” she said.

Staff writer Paul Leighton can be reached at 978-338-2675 or