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N Sullivan and CrewBOOKBAR OWNER NICOLE SULLIVAN with converted ambulance Mavis the Magical Bookmobile and “shop kids” Grace and Jack. Mavis is used to promote literacy and distribute thousands of donated books in northwest metro Denver. PHOTO BY KEN LUTES.

By Ken Lutes

Mavis the Magical Bookmobile is a viable component of BookBar’s continuing mission to increase literacy in the community. The refurbished ambulance no longer provides life-saving medical services, but it does promote life-changing reading opportunities through the distribution of thousands of books.

Mavis’s purpose is two-fold: to contribute to BookBar owner Nicole Sullivan’s quest to expand literacy programs and to market the importance of independent bookstores.

“I’d had the idea of a bookmobile in the back of my head for a while,” Sullivan said. “Then a while ago, we hired someone who actually had a bookmobile, and we bought it from her.”

Mavis has since received a makeover – new flooring and a red-orange paint job that sports a new logo.

“As an old ambulance, we have a bench where people can get out of the heat, and sit and talk about books and reading.”

BookBar and Mavis work with places that don’t necessarily have space to shelve or store books, like Bienvenidos Foodbank.

“That’s where Mavis can roll up, open her doors, and pass out donated books, Sullivan said. “I hope to do that sort of thing on a weekly basis. We have books in Spanish, too. There are bi-lingual schools in northwest Denver, like Sandoval, Bryant-Webster, and Valdez, and we make a point of going to those.”

This was the second year that BookBar was involved in a donation program called Local to Local. In partnership with the Rocky Mountain Chapter of The Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators, “we chose and bought about 3,000 children’s books by more than a dozen local authors and gave them to school children mostly in northwest Denver, before the summer break,” Sullivan said.

To better facilitate the thousands of books donated each year to those in need, this year Sullivan created BookGive [], the non-profit arm of BookBar. Each donation, whether cash or gently used books, is now tax deductible. She said they’ll be doing more events around the charitable organization, to get the community involved with getting books to children.

“Mavis did the Northwest Denver Book Exchange at North High in April. We received a ton of book donations – about 1,000 – and those were given away to schools for their reading programs. Next year will be our 10th year for that event.”

BookBar also partners with Denver Public Library’s Smiley branch, in Berkeley, for a summer reading program.

“After the program, kids can come down and get a discounted lunch with us.”

Sullivan’s donation programs focus mostly on lower elementary and middle school-aged children, “but we don’t want it to end there,” she said.

“I once did a donation event with a local author, and we got into a pedi-cab and gave away books to homeless people up and down 16th Street Mall. They were so grateful and excited to receive the book. I keep thinking about that, the potential we have for Mavis to get books to everybody. Adults need books, too.”

Non-profit recipients of BookGive include Colorado Coalition for the Homeless, Mount Saint Vincent Home and The Gathering Place, among others.

Anyone with books to donate to any of the Mavis programs can bring them to BookBar, 4280 Tennyson St., or to any Mavis event – she’ll be at Sunnyside Music Festival on Sept. 8.

Sullivan wants to let people know that there are plenty of “book desert” neighborhoods in metro Denver, with no independent bookstores.

“We want to keep reminding people that if they don’t have a bookstore nearby, they can order online from a local independent bookstore. This is another purpose for Mavis, to get the word out that people can give back to their local community rather than to a wealthy billionaire.”

BookBar collaborates with other regional bookstores, such as The Tattered Cover, Boulder Book Store and Old Firehouse Books in Fort Collins, and can use Mavis to shuttle visiting authors between book shops or various locations where they’ll be speaking.

When she’s not at a book event, Mavis can be found behind the store, where she is used for kids’ storytime events and birthday parties.

BookBar Launches Free Book Club Website

“To this day, one of the questions people most often ask is whether we know of any book clubs they could join,” Sullivan said. “I built a website to answer that question.”

A free nation-wide service,, will connect readers to book clubs in their area.

“It’s like, but for book clubs, so people can find the right book club for their reading style. Each book club that registers is required to link to a local independent bookstore; that keeps the whole book ecosystem locally connected.”

The hard launch for the website will be July 21.

Sullivan says the next step is to register as many independent bookstores as possible, so they can get the word out to their customers.

“This is my biggest baby since [opening] BookBar. I’ve been working on it for years.

“I think the reason why the written word so important to people, and why I’m so passionate about books in general, is because when you read a book, you put yourself into someone else’s shoes, into their feelings and their heart and soul, and you’re able to view someone else’s experience in no other way possible. I feel strongly it makes us better people.”

For more information about Mavis, BookGive and ReadTribe, visit