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Once the engine warmed up, Margaret Petty, all dressed in elf, got behind the wheel for a busy morning of spreading holiday cheer.
Petty is the children's librarian at Argie Cooper Library and also runs Shelbyville's Bookmobile, which visits area daycares and Head Start programs to provide books for children to take delight in.
"It's a little shaky at first," said Petty, as she began her mission last week. "It takes me a few minutes to get used to driving it after getting out of my little Nissan."
Sure, it's old, somewhat worn out and has broken down on Petty a few times, but the kids don't seem to mind.
"The kids love to get on the Bookmobile," said Irma Moreno, Head Start teacher. "They love to pick out their books and they love it when Ms. Margaret comes in to read to them, too."
Last week, Petty had three stops to make. This would be her last run until after the holidays so she put on her elf costume, gathered her candy canes and grabbed a Christmas book to read to the children for a special treat.
At each stop, Petty read "Merry Un-Christmas," a story about a girl named Noelle, who lives in a place that celebrates Christmas every day. Noelle is bored with Christmas, and longs for the one day out of the year (Un-Christmas) where she can go to school, the post office and just do normal things. The book had the children thinking twice about wishing for Christmas every day.
Once Petty finished reading, students bundled up and excitedly jumped on board the Bookmobile where they had the chance to check out a book until Petty's next visit.
Naturally, the children wanted to do more than just pick out a book.
"Can we go for a ride," one child asked.
"Oh no," answered Petty. "Ms. Margaret isn't always the best driver."
One time, she hit a curb, causing the all the books to fall from their spot on the shelves.
"One child was bound and determined he wanted to drive the Bookmobile," laughed Petty, who could share countless stories.
Petty has worked at the library since 1995 and has been the children's librarian for 11 years.
The library purchased the Bookmobile from the state in 2004, when it stopped its bookmobile program.
"We thought it was important to continue the service to Shelbyville and we thought it was something we could do," Petty said.
The library was able to get a grant to update some of the interior and also to purchase a laptop that enables Petty to check books in and out while on location.
Over the years, Petty and her Bookmobile have "gotten lost more than a few times," hit a few curbs, and have even had one fender bender. But all in all, it's been good for all parties involved.
"There have been a few times where I've come to work not feeling the best," Petty said. "But being around the children changes all that."
If you would like to learn more about the Bookmobile or other children's services offered by the library, call 684-7323.