Jessica Gleason

Maui’s New Bookmobile Brings the Library to the Community

APRIL 2017

Following the retirement of the Wailuku Bookmobile after 21 years on the road, the brand new Holoholo Bookmobile has arrived to bring back library services to the Maui community. Maui’s only mobile library is more than functioning, it’s flourishing. And it’s staffed by one of the friendliest librarians you’ll ever meet.

“The Bookmobile is exactly what it sounds like,” says Bookmobile Librarian Jessica Gleason. She matter-of-factly calls it “a library on wheels,” noting “patrons have access to all the services of a brick and mortar library without having to go to an actual library.” And, yes. She means all the services. The Bookmobile is fully equipped to handle everything from issuing library cards to checking out books, and everything in between. Coupled with state-of-the art technology like solar panels, sky lights and Wi-Fi connectivity, it’s easy to see why Gleason enjoys her job. “I love the Bookmobile!” she gushes. “I’d see it as a kid and think, ‘wow, that’s cool,’ but I never thought this would actually happen to me.”

“I didn’t even know I wanted to be a librarian,” admits the Unit 13 member. But after a short stint as a library assistant in Makawao Public Library, she transferred to Wailuku Library and realized “this is it — this is what I want to do.” And with the support of Unit 13 librarians Susan Werner and Glenda Berry, Gleason pursued a degree in library information science. “They (Werner and Berry) were so encouraging, so I applied for school and basically earned my degree while still working at the library,” she says.

After receiving her master’s degree, Gleason filled in temporarily at Kihei Public Library as branch manager and was hired permanently in 2012. “Then the new Bookmobile librarian position opened up,” she says, smiling. “Although I miss Kihei staff and patrons very much, this is more my speed,” she adds. “When I first became a librarian, I thought the Bookmobile would be a dream job, but there hadn’t been a Bookmobile Librarian position for more than 20 years. Then this great opportunity came along and there was just no way I could pass it up.” As a mother of twin toddlers, the timing couldn’t have been better for Gleason.

The concept of the Bookmobile is simple — bring library resources to places without library access. Some regular stops include community centers, senior housing, nursing homes, the correctional facility, public and private schools, and several preschools, but the Bookmobile also participates in some community events like big truck shows and the occasional ho‘olaulea. “If people aren’t able to come out and see us, we can bring books and materials to them,” Gleason says. “Our setup is very flexible, so we can move things around and make it easy for people to access items. We even have a really cool awning that can be pulled out for added shade or shelter so patrons don’t necessarily have to enter the vehicle.”

Whether it’s story time with toddlers or supplementing school curriculum, librarians do more than just check out books. They have a responsibility to protect access to information and provide as best they can for their community. “We’re not just the people who shush you in the aisles,” Gleason jokes. Librarians often spend hours building collections and coordinating programs designed to educate, support literacy, and nurture a lifelong love of reading in people of all ages and backgrounds. “People don’t think that’s part of our job, but we have strong beliefs in freedom of information, open access to information, and to make sure that we’re breaking down barriers that prevent people from getting information.” And the Bookmobile is just one vehicle that enables Gleason to do exactly that. “Most people are usually happy to see us and thankful for the services we provide. That makes my job so much more rewarding.”

For more information about the Bookmobile including schedule, services and locations, please visit