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Money needed to keep Coquitlam book bus rolling

Book bus driver Sal Kiridena with some of his patrons — Illonne Utian and her grandson Shaun. The bus stops Thursdays at Victoria Hall and Saturdays at Cottonwood Park. - DIANE STRANDBERG/THE TRI-CITY NEWS
Book bus driver Sal Kiridena with some of his patrons — Illonne Utian and her grandson Shaun. The bus stops Thursdays at Victoria Hall and Saturdays at Cottonwood Park.
— image credit: DIANE STRANDBERG/THE TRI-CITY NEWS

The popular book bus that has brought reading materials to thousands of Coquitlam residents is being resurrected thanks to a community fundraising campaign — and the driver couldn’t be happier.

Sal Kiridena feared the fire that destroyed the Coquitlam Public Library’s Book Bus in May would also kill the program that connects residents in far-flung areas of the city with the city library.

He was elated to learn CPL has not only planned to lease a temporary replacement but would seek community and business support for a replacement bus. The commitment means Kiridena is continuing to visit Cottonwood and Victoria Park neighbourhoods each week with a rented van full of books people can check out.

“I have to give credit to management for giving a green light for another one,” he said. “I hope someone in the community will come out and step up to the plate and help us out with this because it’s such a benefit to the community.”

The longtime library assistant took it hard when the bus caught fire from what may have been an over-heated engine. “It was devastating,” said Kiridena of the incident, which resulted in severe damage to the truck and caused the Pinetree Way branch to be evacuated.

Library director Todd Gnissios said Kiridena was inconsolable after the fire.

“We don’t have a lot of money,” Gnissios said. “He really felt that would be the end of the program.”

But with the library board behind the renewal, and a community ready to rally around the fundraising campaign, the library is at least closer to replacing the burned bus. A corporate sponsor or very large donation is still needed to bankroll the project, which could cost between $70,000 and $250,000, depending on whether the library can get a second-hand or new bus.

Patrons using the mobile service at Victoria Hall on Thursday are also hopeful the burned bus can be replaced and the service maintained for the future. Illonne Utian said she has been bringing her grandson, Shaun, to the Book Bus for a few years and said the boy has taken up reading thanks to the collection of books and Kiridena. “Sal is fantastic with the children,” she said.

For his part, the driver said he hopes the fundraising campaign can keep the bus rolling for those who are on low income or new to the community as well as elderly people with limited mobility and families with young children.

“It’s really rewarding to see how people appreciate the Book Bus,” he said. “I can’t remember a day when somebody didn’t come to me and say how much they love what the library is doing here.”

• To find out more about the fundraising campaign for the book bus or to contribute, visit www.library.coquitlam.bc.ca

dstrandberg@tricitynews.com

 

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