A passionate Laura Moulten uses an pedal-powered bookmobile to engage with and enrich the lives of men and women on the street.
On a gray Wednesday morning, Skidmore Fountain Plaza is not an inviting space. The wind is cold, the cobblestones and concrete hard, the whine of the streetcars unfriendly. People dressed for the office hurry through, giving a wide berth to the jumble of shopping carts and campers huddled in grimy sleeping bags that occupy one corner. Others, who look as though they have been living rough and have nowhere to hurry to, wander into the plaza and find a place to settle for a while.
Just after 10 a.m. Laura Moulton wheels a glossy black cargo tricycle into the plaza. Its cargo box, which resembles an antique steamer trunk, has “Street Books” stenciled in copperplate script across the front. A sign explains this is a pedal-powered mobile library serving people who live outside. It is open Wednesdays at Skidmore Fountain and Saturdays in the South Park Blocks. She pulls out a display drawer holding about 50 carefully chosen books.
The street librarian is on duty.
It’s not long before the first patrons approach.
“How’s it going, Pamela,” Moulton says to a raw-skinned woman who is returning a Jean M. Auel book that she borrowed the week before.
“Boring,” is Pamela Bradford’s verdict on “The Clan of the Cave Bear.” This week she chooses “People of the Wolf,” by W. Michael Gear and Kathleen O’Neal Gear, and takes it back to her perch under one of the arches in the square.
“I love wolves,” she says, before launching into a vivid, disjointed story that seems equal parts yearning reminiscence and wild fantasy about a pet wolf named Nikita that she once owned in Alaska.