Madison Public Library Marketing Specialist Liz Boyd recently did a ride-along with the Dream Bus staff. We asked her to share her experience with our donors.
I’ve been promoting the Dream Bus on social media for more than a year, and I really wanted to get a better sense for what it’s like on the bus! During the pandemic, our Youth Services librarians were going to Dream Bus stops to meet kids and pass out We Read materials, so I had been to one stop before — but it was such a fast stop that I didn’t really get to enjoy the process. This time, I was able to ride along on the Dream Bus itself for a full day, which included four stops. The stops were at Allied Drive in Madison, and then around different apartment and community centers in Sun Prairie. I got to ride along with Dane County Library Service Director Tracy Herold, who helps run the Dream Bus program, and Ricardo Marroquin, who has been a driver since the first routes of the Dream Bus back in spring 2019.
One thing that surprised me was the range of materials on the bus. There were tons of picture books, graphic novels and books for middle grades, which I expected; but there were lots of materials for adults as well. In particular, the DVD collection seemed to be a big hit with the kids I met along the way, and they were delighted to be able to check out a DVD using their library card and to keep it for a full week. I really enjoyed interacting with the kids to ask what they liked to read or watch. One little boy kept bringing me picture book after picture book with lots of different animals.
Another thing that surprised me was how different the stops were from each other, just in the short day I was on the Dream Bus. For instance, at Allied Drive, the kids were separated into two classes, and they came onto the bus in an orderly manner with a teacher in tow who helped them pick out a book and add it to a big box. The teacher returned the books from the week before and helped the kids choose new books. The 20 students were on and off the bus within a span of probably only 15 minutes, whereas when we got to the new stops in Sun Prairie, we saw more kids coming on and off the bus in groups and without parents. Many of them were curious about how the Dream Bus worked and wanted to learn how they could check out materials to take home. Ricardo is so amazing at explaining how the library works to kids — his patience and kindness shine through. Kids were able to browse and see what materials we had, and then were invited to come back the next week with their filled-out library card applications to start taking home items.
One other thing that I loved about my time on the Dream Bus was seeing all of the notes, cards, drawings and thank-yous from kids who had visited before. It was awesome to see the impact the Dream Bus has had during its two short years on the road! Now, my promotions of the Dream Bus can come to life in a way they couldn’t before because when I write about the Dream Bus, it makes me think of the pure excitement and joy I felt from the kids when they saw the bus pull up in their neighborhood.