South Charlotte

After 10 years on the road, Karen's leaving

After 10 years on the road, Karen Ellison has turned in the keys to the Bookmobile.

Ellison, one of the Bookmobile's three-member team, is leaving to become the librarian for Gaston Day School.

People across the county have gotten used to seeing her – always dressed in colorful skirts and fanciful costume jewelry – stepping out of the giant bus with a fresh batch of books or DVDs.

“I'm not giving up recommending books or doing story time,” Ellison laughed, “but I'm adding things like research and projects.”

Her last day was Friday, almost 14 years to the day she started with the York County Library.

“The neatest thing is I wasn't looking for a new job, but this just fell into my lap,” she said. “I'll really miss the Bookmobile, but I'm so excited about working at Gaston Day.”

Ellison was hired at the library in York as a branch assistant in 1994. Six months later, she was full-time and was asked to take the job of children's assistant, doing programs for various ages.

“I'd never done anything like that before,” Ellison said. “But it was a lot of fun.”

She quickly learned how to read sideways while holding a book so children could see. And there were fingerplays, rhyming songs and feltboard stories to memorize.

“The kids just love you to death,” Ellison said. “They like my jewelry … it means so much to them to be the focus of your attention.”

All this came in handy in 1998 when Ellison joined the Bookmobile team. The Bookmobile travels throughout the county to day cares, senior centers, apartment complexes, anywhere there's a need for books. It houses more than 4,000 items including magazines, DVDs and audio books. The inventory is constantly in flux as people request different items from the main library collection.

“The Bookmobile is totally circulation-driven,” Ellison said. The 21,000-pound customized bus makes more than 20 stops a week, logging about 900 miles each month. Some of Ellison's favorite stops were for home-bound people, including one man who checked out 60 books each month – and read them all each time. “Sometimes you're the only contact these people have,” Ellison said. “You have to honor that, and spend some time getting to know them.

“I'm going to miss all the people,” she said. “They become your friends.”