Once upon a time, before television, before pre-school kids learned to send SMS messages and surf the web – there were books. Now, a new project is attempting to bring back those distant days: "If the kids won't come to the books, the books will come to them."
All those living far from the center in the 60s will remember the yellow truck that would arrive once a week, park in the middle of the town, and call to everyone, young and old alike, to exchange their library books.
"As a child, (IDF chief) Gabi Ashkenazi would sit on the stairs of the library, read rapidly, finish the book and ask for another before the truck continued on its way," recalls Yehuda Alton, the legendary librarian of Israel's first mobile library. "In those days there weren't any highways, and I would often get stuck in mud, while in the towns they would wait impatiently while I got myself out."
Alton was invited as guest of honor to the launch of the mobile library, model 2010.
"We were tired of hearing how kids today prefer slouching in front of the computer or television instead of reading, so we decided to do something about it," said Moti Elmeliah of Sifrei Mafteah ("key books"), the organization behind the project. "The mobile library offers more than just web-surfing. It relates with love and respect to the printed word. Here, kids feel the urge to read, and the excitement is catching."
The mobile library will travel to towns which have limited access to libraries, starting in the Modiin area, with plans to continue in the north and south, and even enter city neighborhoods.
The library includes more than 2,000 titles for children and young adults, including the best of contemporary writing, fantasy, science fiction, adventure, and classic literature in Hebrew and English. Israel's leading publishers contributed many books including recent bestsellers.
The library, scheduled to make its first run next week, also includes some innovations: cushions and sunshades to enable readers to enjoy a good book in the open air, story hour, meetings with writers and the creators of comics, and even writing workshops.
"A long time before the internet and television took over our lives, the mobile library had a central role in the towns and villages," said head of Modiin Regional Council, Shimon Sosan. "In the past, the idea was to bring books to distant settlements. Today the idea is: if the kids won't come to the books, the books will come to them."