County of Marin - News Releases - Learning Bus

For Immediate Release
October 03, 2019

Library’s Learning Bus to Make its Debut

Mobile learning center replaces FLAGship; ‘touch a truck’ event set for October 12

San Rafael, CA – After 18 years of use, 147,000 miles traveled and a million memories made, the Marin County Free Library (MCFL) mobile preschool unit, the FLAGship, is headed to retirement. In its place is the new 30-foot Learning Bus, which will make a grand public debut at a “Goodbye FLAGship! Hello Learning Bus” event October 12 in San Rafael.

An exterior view of the new Learning Bus.The Marin County Free Library's new Learning Bus operates all its on-board systems without running the engine.

Library staff will host the event between noon and 3 p.m. October 12 at the Civic Center Lagoon Park’s picnic area. The event will feature other community agency trucks for children to touch and a chance for them to meet the people who operate them. The library will provide art, bilingual storytimes, games, music, face painting, food, and cake.

MCFL Director Sara Jones will offer a sneak preview to the Marin County Board of Supervisors during the October 8 meeting inside the Civic Center.

“This is so exciting for our staff, but we know it’ll be even more exciting for the children who love the FLAGship visits, especially in rural West Marin,” said Alejandra Cruz, MCFL’s Learning Bus Coordinator. “We are so proud to be able to continue serving our community for many years to come, especially in a county where child care and early education is in high demand, low supply and unaffordable.”

The Learning Bus offers the latest in environmentally conscious power systems and adds to the County’s fleet of “green” vehicles. Over the years, the County’s commitment to sustainability has included the replacement of inefficient gas-powered vehicles with eco-friendly alternatives whenever possible. The effort began in 2002 with the purchase of a Toyota Prius, and today the fleet includes 78 hybrid vehicles and nine EVs.

“The FLAGship averaged 5 miles per gallon and was in the mechanics’ shop often over the past few years,” said Bonny White, MCFL Deputy Director who managed the FLAGship and West Marin library branches for many years. “But we kept repairing it because the vehicle is so vital to the library’s equity initiative and served residents who were isolated because of geography, finances or the lack of English language skills.”   

The new acquisition is believed to be the first library outreach vehicle in the country with a parallel hybrid driveline system that not only reduces fuel consumption and carbon emissions but also directly powers all on-board systems including WiFi, air conditioning, lighting, and computer systems without any running engines. The system eliminates the need for a traditional power generator and auxiliary batteries while providing clean and quiet power for up to eight hours on a single charge. Regenerative braking and solar panels assist in recharging when it is away from its charging station.

“It’s slick,” said Raemona Little Taylor, MCFL’s West Marin Libraries and Learning Bus Manager, who helped MCFL choose the new bus. “This is one of the ways our library system can help reduce the effects of climate change. Every department in the County is making efforts to be as sustainable and environmentally conscious as possible.”

The Learning Bus cost $344,000, partially offset by a $100,000 donation from the Marin-based Buck Family Fund of the Marin Community Foundation. The donation was combined with matching funds from the County of Marin, library Measure A parcel tax proceeds, community donations and support from the Marin County Library Foundation.

“We are incredibly grateful for all the support for this vital educational tool,” said MCFL Director Sara Jones.

The 28-foot FLAGship (the FLAG part refers to Families Learning and Growing) was purchased new in the early 2000s and modified with financial help from the Marin Children and Families Commission (now called First 5 Marin). It brought early literary and education outreach services to young children and their families throughout the county who don’t live close to one of the 10 MCFL branches. The vehicle made about 10 stops weekly and served nearly 1,000 children and adults each year, emphasizing the critical need for every child to have early learning resources available.

MCFL also has a mobile library, the Bookmobile, that visits one-room schoolhouses, ranches, assisted living centers, preschools, and other special events throughout the year. 


Sara Jones
Marin County Free Library

3501 Civic Center Drive
San Rafael, CA 94903
(415) 473-6051
Email: Sara Jones
Library website