Meet South St. Paul Library’s newest addition: Bobski


The South St. Paul Library’s Honora Rodriguez, an adult services librarian, is also the Librarian On Wheels and can be found at the local farmers’ market. Her pull-behind cart was made possible by donations in honor of former library volunteer-turned-employee Bob Meehl. (Hannah Burlingame/Review)

The name of the cart, Bobski, was a nickname Meehl used to put on his timesheet. His widow, Ann, who along with friends donated money to buy the cart, says her late husband was a jokester. (Hannah Burlingame/Review)

A painting of Bob Meehl and his dog, Rudy. (submitted photo)

New library tool is in memory of beloved employee

 

When the sun is shining and the weather is nice, it’s not uncommon to see people around riding their bikes. 

South St. Paul is no exception, but for Honora Rodriguez, her bike has a special addition that was made possible by a donation made in honor of a late South St. Paul resident.

Rodriguez, who is an adult services librarian at the South St. Paul Library, is also the Librarian on Wheels. Her trusty pull-behind bike cart is in memory of Bob Meehl, a former library volunteer turned employee, who passed away earlier this year. 

Rodriguez says she had outreach goals like wanting to reach South St. Paul seniors as well as folks who don’t use the library.

“I remember going to Black Sheep Coffee once and being like, ‘I don’t recognize any of you. How do I reach you? What do I need to do?’” she says.

That got her thinking she needed something versatile that she could use in different ways. Talks originally focused on a motorized scooter, but Rodriguez says the logistics were a nightmare. 

“So I was like, ‘OK maybe I’ll bike,’” she says.

As the focus switched to a bike cart, Meehl’s widow, Ann, came into the picture — she was looking to donate to the library in honor of her late husband — and there it was.

 

What to do

Ann says her husband’s involvement with the library began when he retired.

“When you retire, you don’t really know what to do, so I said ‘Why don’t you go volunteer somewhere?’” she says.

Meehl went to volunteer at the library because he loved books. After he worked there for free for a couple years, there was an opening for a shelver. He decided to apply because he thought he “might as well get paid for what I’m doing anyway,” says Ann.

Ann says the people at the library already loved her husband before he became a paid employee — she describes him as a very humorous guy who loved jokes and was easy going.

“He was the only guy that worked there. They just loved him,” Ann says of Meehl, who was a paid employee at the library for five years.

Meehl was a comic. Ann says he would make up names on his timesheet, and one of them was “Bobski,” which is the name on the license plate on the cart.

Last October, Meehl started getting sick and could no longer work. He was hospitalized in November, the week of Thanksgiving, and diagnosed with stage-four cancer.

“It was a shock because we had no clue. He had no clue,” Ann says. “The whole time he was just so positive. I never thought it could happen that he would pass or die.”

Meehl had brain surgery on Dec. 13 to remove a tumor. He was doing well until he developed a blood clot. 

Ann says she brought her husband back into the hospital on Christmas Eve morning after he started experiencing severe pain. 

Doctors discovered the cancer had spread to his lungs, which is when he decided to focus on quality of life, rather than quantity of life.  

 

‘Bob was a biker’

Ann says her husband would ride his bike to work when the weather was nice. “He would have a little book bag to [bring] his books back and forth.”

After Meehl passed in January of this year — he was 74 — Ann says she wanted some kind of memorial for him at the library. Ann says he loved the place and its employees.

“They were so nice. They closed the library for his funeral so they could all go to his funeral,” she says. 

A couple days after she decided to donate books in his memory, Ann says she was told about Rodriguez’s idea of a cart for her bike that she could load books into to take to the parade or the farmers’ market.

“I thought that was a great idea, because Bob rode his bike to work. He loved outdoors,” Ann says.

She, along with three of her friends, donated the funds to purchase the Bobski cart, which helps keep Meehl’s memory alive.

“They remember him. They really loved him and miss him. It’s a way for them to remember him,” says Ann, who now volunteers a couple days a week at the library. “I know he would like it. I know he would love it. That’s just the kind of guy he was.”

 

Growing the program

The Librarian on Wheels is a conversation starter, says Rodriguez. She wanted it to be a spectacle that was loud, noticeable and different to let people now the library is there. 

While other libraries might have a book cart that carries books out into the community for checkout, she uses the Bobski more as an outreach tool.

“We’re promoting our services. Sometimes I’ll bring a few books around that people can check out, but people can sign up for cards,” she says. “It’s a way to bring our services to people.”

Rodriguez says the library wants to get Librarian on Wheels out to more places like the Kaposia Days Parade and The Great Halloween Get Together, since, she adds, getting to introduce people to library services they may have not known about is fun.

 

– Hannah Burlingame can be reached at 651-748-7824 or hburlingame@lillienews.com

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