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Mobile library back on the road soon

The Kitchigami Regional Library expects to put its large mobile library bus back into service in mid-October, said Marion Ridge, library director.

The bus has been undergoing repairs since receiving extensive damage from an accident last November on Highway 71 near Menahga, said Dave Mattila, library board president. A pickup slid in front of the bus on the icy roads, he said. The pickup driver was killed and both Kitchagami employees on board the bus were injured. One employee recovered in six weeks and the other employee is still unable to return to work, Mattila said.

Kitchigami expected the bus to be ready by Sept. 15, but was informed it was not fully repaired, he said.

"We wanted to have [the insurance company] total it," Mattila said about the bus after the accident. "But they said no, they wanted to fix it. They're going to spend more money than on a new one, but they're in the driver's seat."

He said Kitchigami could have purchased a new bus in half the time it has taken to repair the damaged one.

Kitchigami has continued its mobile library service since the accident, but the replacement bus is much smaller and less comfortable to use, Ridge said. The large bus is 38 feet long and has room for people to walk and look at materials on shelves. It has Internet access, a larger collection of books and a wheelchair lift, she said.

"It's been very frustrating waiting for it," Ridge said.

The large bus had only been in use since early 2005. The mobile library serves five counties, which includes Wadena, Crow Wing, Cass, Hubbard and Beltrami.

Many different kinds of people use the library, she said, including young parents, home school families, senior citizens and people who "go through books like water."

The mobile library patrons have one thing in common, Ridge said.

"They all live in small communities that couldn't support a branch library," she said. "We bring them a branch library on wheels."