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Longtime Rochester bookmobile librarian puts career in rearview mirror

"We pull in, and we're the small-town library. So, we know what's happening in the community. They value us," said Rochester Bookmobile librarian Margie Brumm.

Margie Brumm Retiring
Margie Brumm is retiring at the end of July after more than 30 years with the Rochester Public Library Bookmobile. Brumm is photographed Tuesday, June 21, 2022, in the doorway of the Bookmobile parked outside Sunset Terrace Elementary School in Rochester.
Joe Ahlquist / Post Bulletin
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ROCHESTER — Margie Brumm has been taking the Rochester Public Library on tour around Olmsted County for more than 30 years. As one of the librarians tasked with managing the bookmobile, she’s been the face of the library for those living in the farther reaches of the local coverage area.

She's also coordinated the homebound program and the deposit program, taking books to those who can't leave their homes, as well as to the Olmstead County Jail, the federal medical prison, assisted living homes, some nursing homes, and even some day cares.

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Highlights of events in 1997, 1972, 1947 and 1922.

And now, she’s hanging up her hat.

The Post Bulletin recently spoke with her about her career with the bookmobile, and what it's meant to her throughout the decades.

How does the bookmobile actually work?

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We have a set schedule, and the idea of the bookmobile is to make it to people who can't make it to the main library. We go all around Olmsted County. We go to almost every quadrant.

More or less, we're the traveling branch. We used to go to 75 stops on a two-week time frame.

Do you actually drive the bookmobile yourself?

No. When I was hired, it wasn't part of the job description.

Margie Brumm Retiring
Margie Brumm, with the Rochester Public Library Bookmobile, gets a book for Michael Kelly, of Rochester, on Tuesday, June 21, 2022, outside Sunset Terrace Elementary School in Rochester. Brumm is retiring at the end of July after more than 30 years with the Bookmobile.
Joe Ahlquist / Post Bulletin

So, how did you get started with the bookmobile?

I have been on every single bookmobile Rochester has had. The very first one, I was there as a patron. And the last three, I have worked on. The original driver trained me.

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I just loved it. I used to be a barber, and then I went to school at night and got a job part time with the library bookmobile and in the youth services area — I worked there part time too. And then after a year or two, I got hired to work on the bookmobile, and I've been there ever since.

How do you keep the books from flying off the shelves when the bookmobile is on the move?

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The shelves in our unit right now are slightly slanted, so the books stay on. However, there have been instances — in winter time in particular — where there's been potholes and such. We kind of had a joke going about who had the record in flipping the most books. It wasn't out of the ordinary that we'd pull into somewhere, and we'd both jump into action putting books back on shelves as fast as we could. There was one driver — pretty much, you couldn't see the floor by the time he parked. That was impressive.

So what have you liked about your job?

I like the people. I like the patrons. I like being part of everyone's world.

I’m used to being out in the world with friends. They were strangers at one time. But after 35 years, they’re friends. That will be the hardest thing for me: the people and the friends.

Margie Brumm Retiring
Margie Brumm, with the Rochester Public Library Bookmobile, chats with Michael Kelly, of Rochester, after getting him a book from the Bookmobile on Tuesday, June 21, 2022, outside Sunset Terrace Elementary School in Rochester. Brumm is retiring at the end of July after more than 30 years with the Bookmobile.
Joe Ahlquist / Post Bulletin

It's the tender touch; it's going the extra mile. I've been to more visitations than I would like to. I've visited people in the hospital. I've exchanged things that I had at home that we couldn't find in the library, and I happened to have what they were looking for.

It's a family.

Did you ever want to work out of the main library?

I like being on the road specifically. I'm a talker, animated, friendly. I excel with people. And I get involved in their lives. They get involved in mine. I'm an open book. They're important to me.

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And they can do that out there (in the main library), but not to the extent that we can.

Because — we're a small town. We pull in, and we're the small town library. So, we know what's happening in the community. They value us.

Asked & Answered is a weekly question-and-answer column featuring people of southeastern Minnesota. Is there somebody you'd like to see featured? Send suggestions to news@postbulletin.com .

Jordan Shearer covers K-12 education for the Post Bulletin. A Rochester native, he graduated from Bemidji State University in 2013 before heading out to write for a small newsroom in the boonies of western Nebraska. Bringing things full circle, he returned to Rochester in 2020 just shy of a decade after leaving. Readers can reach Jordan at 507-285-7710 or jshearer@postbulletin.com.
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Highlights of events in 1997, 1972, 1947 and 1922.
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