The Free Bookmobile of Sonoma County needs a new truck in order to stay compliant with California’s emissions laws.
The California Air Resources Board (CARB) issued a letter to the nonprofit saying that the truck’s diesel engine is too old and will be out of compliance with bus and trucking regulations that will go into effect next year.
“I appreciate that California is trying to keep our environment clean. I also feel that organizations like ours, that are running one vehicle rather than a fleet and are doing positive work in the community … is a good reason to have an exemption,” bookmobile director Glen Weaver said. “Ultimately, I see both sides, and it is what it is.”
The nonprofit has put up a crowdfunding site, fundrazr.com/bookmobile, where it aims to raise $32,500 for a new-to-them gas-powered Ford F-450 with the necessary conversions to be a book shop on wheels. The deadline to donate is Nov. 15. If the goal is not reached, donors will not be charged.
The total cost is $39,500 for the new truck, with $7,000 funded by a few initial donors. The F-450 is powered by a 2001 V-10 Triton engine. Since it is gas, it is not as regulated by the state.
The diesel in question is a 1995 Cummins turbo diesel, which if kept, could not be driven more than 1,000 miles per year. Sticking to that limit would render the truck useless, Weaver said, as the truck is out three to four times a week around the county.
The Cummins has roughly 100,000 miles on it, and was bought with the hopes of going much further.
“We had heard from knowledgeable folks that those things go up to three-, four-, 500,000 miles, so we were really excited about that. When we purchased it back in 2010, it had less than 30,000. So we were thinking this was going to last us a lifetime,” Weaver said.
The truck was also a great deal, Weaver said. The group purchased it for $6,500 from a similar operation in Kentucky.
“Brand new, it was almost $70,000,” he said.
The other route the bookmobile could have pursued would have been to swap the Cummins with a newer diesel, but Weaver said that wasn’t cost-effective.
“We figure that this $40,000 to build a bookmobile from scratch is much more realistic and is really more the retail price of putting something like this together,” Weaver said.
The challenge for a bookmobile, aside from needing a bigger truck, is all the specifications it needs.
Weaver said the truck needs easy entry and proper lighting.
“”In order to not run power during the day, we’ve discovered using natural light works really well,” he said.
The truck they would like to purchase has a translucent top and sides, which can let in sunlight, along with big side windows.
“It helps us stay green in terms of energy use,” he said.
The entry is also custom and sits lower to the ground to help mobility-limited patrons step in through the front.
Weaver has also lined up Sonoma County vendors to do the necessary modifications: hardware additions, electric and lighting, carpet and the shelves that will carry all the books.
As for the old truck, Weaver said they are looking at selling it to a similar organization out-of-state, where the engine could run the rest of its life.
The bookmobile has been a full-time operation since 2011 and serves about 2,000 people per month.
“We would do public access at consistent spots every month,” Weaver said, saying they have 13 such spots where library access is more limited.
The bookmobile also stops in at places like assisted living homes, where people have more limited mobility, or day care centers. The bookmobile is also a recurring sight at festivals and other events.
“That’s what we’ve had to abandon right now,” due to non-compliance, Weaver said.
Weaver said the truck gives away about 4,000 books per month, with 325,000 given away so far.
For more information, see freebookmobile.org