Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Bookmobiles bring information to you

Historic bookmobile
Circa 1929: Book truck that served
Davidson County Public Library
(Bookmobile Library Timeline)
The bookmobile has had a long and illustrious history in the development of library services.

The purpose of this paper is to advocate resumption of bookmobile services in Lake County, particularly in those communities not presently served by a branch library. I suggest that in order to do so, the Lake County Library should apply for federal funding available through the California State Library.

The first “Library Wagon” debuted in 1905 in Washington County, Maryland, according to Mary Lemist Titcomb (qtd. in Dickson 53). Furnished “with shelves on the outside and a place for storage of cases in the center [it] resembled somewhat a cross between a grocer’s delivery wagon and the tin peddlers carts of bygone New England days.

“Filled with an attractive collection of books and drawn by two horses, with Mr. Joshua Thomas the janitor both holding the reins and dispensing the books, it started on its travels in April 1905.”

In 1912, Washington County also created the first automotive bookmobile in America, “an International Harvester Autowagon with a specially built body for carrying books” (Dickson 54).

Paul Dickson noted that “In the 1920s many libraries initiated bookmobile service ... The zeal and idealism that accompanied the burgeoning bookmobile movement was considerable” (84).

In the New York Times Book Review, Jan. 10, 1926, Francis A. Collins said, “The perambulating ‘book bus’ has indefinitely expanded the radius of the circulating library” (qtd. in Dickson 83). Collins noted that it was “not uncommon for one of these perambulating libraries to travel upward of 100 miles in a single day.” (qtd. in Dickson 83).

Correspondence from Jan Cook, a library technician at the Lake County Library, dates bookmobile services in Lake County as early as 1906. She cites a notice in the Lake County Bee, March 14, 1906, stating that “Lower Lake is now on the list of State traveling libraries.”

The next incarnation of bookmobile services, dated around 1960, was through the Lake County schools. “The school library collection was housed in the downstairs of the Carnegie Library in Lakeport” (Cook).

The state-operated, federally-funded Lake County Library Project purchased a bookmobile in 1972. Cook noted that “The purchased bookmobile stayed on the road until 1991. By the time it retired, it had begun to need frequent repairs and was often in the shop.” Cook’s husband Lee was the last bookmobile driver.

Cook said, “The early 1990s were much like today with very tight budgets, layoffs and cutbacks in local government. There was money available to replace the bookmobile, but not money to repair the old one, and not enough money to staff a new bookmobile, and so the bookmobile was quietly retired.”

Despite their absence from Lake County communities, bookmobiles have continued to operate and have evolved to incorporate patron access to technology.

Jason Hyatt and Angela Craig draw attention to the difference between traditional bookmobile services and the services that are available through the Mobile Outreach Literacy Vehicle of the Public Library of Charlotte and Mecklenburg County in Charlotte, N.C.:
Staffers also unfurl carpets and put out chairs to create a portable Internet cafe. Patrons use laptops equipped with internal broadband cards. Children play online games, adults check their e-mail, and teens update their MySpace pages (Hyatt and Craig 35).
The outreach vehicle serves library patrons who cannot use the library in a traditional manner. “If they cannot come to the library, outreach can take the library experience to them” (Hyatt and Craig 35).

In what way is this situation applicable to the needs of Lake County residents? Lake County is served by a main library in Lakeport and by branch libraries in Clearlake, Upper Lake and Middletown. There is presently no library in the fifth supervisorial district, which encompasses the town of Kelseyville and surrounding communities.

“Population Projections by County and Communities” placed the population in Kelseyville at 2,928 in 2000 (Lake County). Its population was projected to increase to 3,312 by 2010.

In comparison, population projections for Lakeport and Upper Lake in 2010 were for 5,293 and at 1,142 respectively. The population in Middletown was projected to be 1,700 by 2010. Fixed-route bookmobile services could enhance library outreach among the greater Kelseyville communities.

Outlying communities in the Cobb Mountain, Spring Valley area and along the north shore of Clear Lake could also benefit from bookmobile services. As stated in the “Talking Points” for National Bookmobile Day, “Bookmobiles take library services to people who are not geographically close to a library building. Bookmobiles are [a] cost effective method for testing the location for new library branches” (ALA).

The bookmobile’s appearance at community events, such as the Kelseyville Pear Festival that took place on Sept. 25 of this year, would enhance public exposure to Lake County’s branch libraries as well as its bookmobile.

We see the benefit of such publicity to a traditional library in Raya Kuzyk’s report for Library Journal: The national tour of a “digital bookmobile” began in August 2008 with a public event that was hosted by the New York Public Library. Kuzyk’s report notes that “by 1:30 p.m., 50 visitors had signed up for library cards” (16).

If Lake County was to resume bookmobile services, the greatest expense would, of course, be to purchase the bookmobile. The “Talking Points” place the cost at “almost $200,000 on average, with an expected lifespan of 15 years” (ALA).

Funds must also be budgeted each year toward maintenance of the bookmobile as well as toward eventual replacement. The Association of Bookmobile and Outreach Services recommends that a vehicle replacement fund, calculated at no less than 10 percent of the cost of a suitably-sized vehicle, be part of the library budget (1).

The ALA’s Handbook for Mobile Services Staff offers price breakdowns in greater detail by the chassis type in its “Ten Types of Bookmobile Chassis” (37-41). In addition to estimated price, it includes a wealth of information about each of the chassis types including accessibility, inside length available for services, average maintenance costs, general cost-effectiveness and suitability for general services. The information is rated on a continuum from “Poor” to “Excellent.”

To address the county’s investment in a vehicle and equipping it with technology such as WiFi services and library catalog accessibility, I suggest applying for a grant through the Library Services and Technology Act as soon as funding is available. “Each year since the inception of the Act, the State Librarian has awarded local assistance grants on a competitive basis for locally initiated proposals which meet the purposes of the Act” (California State Library, “LSTA”).

An examination of awards by grantee for 2009/2010 (California State Library) indicated that a competitive grant could more than cover the $200,000 average cost of a library bookmobile: $264,000, for example, awarded to the NorthNet Library System for its Rural Library Initiative and $277,200 awarded to the Pacific Library Partnership for its Networking California Library Resources. The Calfornia State Library is presently instructing potential applicants to check in early 2011 for available grants (“Apply for an LSTA Grant”).

Bookmobile staffing would require the allocation of library professionals’ time; the Association of Bookmobile and Outreach Services recommends that a bookmobile program be managed “with criteria equivalent to branch or other library program management criteria” (1). However, these efforts could be supplemented through the use of volunteers, similar to the way in which volunteers enhance operations at Lake County’s branch libraries.

One possible source to assist with funding any increases in personnel is pending federal legislation such as the Jobs for Main Street Act. The American Library Association’s is encouraging its subscribers to advocate for the inclusion of library jobs in any federal jobs legislation.

In conclusion, my aim with this paper has been to demonstrate the benefits that bookmobile services would have on the County of Lake, as well as to provide suggestions for funding that would aid in supporting this investment. Thank you for considering my proposal.

Works Cited
  • American Library Association, Office for Literacy and Outreach Services. Handbook for Mobile Services Staff. 29 June 2008, Anaheim, CA.
  • American Library Association Annual Conference: Mobile Libraries: Driving Library Services into the Future. 37-41. Web. 15 Sept. 2010.
  • ---. “Inaugural National Bookmobile Day, National Library Week 2010 Talking Points.” National Bookmobile Day. American Library Association. Web. 15 Sept. 2010.
  • Association of Bookmobile and Outreach Services. “2008 National Bookmobile Guidelines” (2008): 1. Association of Bookmobile and Outreach Services. Web. 15 Sept. 2010.
  • California State Library. “Apply for an LSTA Grant.” Library Services and Technology Act. California State Library. Web. 18 Sept. 2010.
  • ---. “The Library Services and Technology Act (LSTA).” Library Services and Technology Act. California State Library. Web. 18 Sept. 2010.
  • ---. “2009/10 LSTA ― Grant Awards By Grantee.” Library Services and Technology Act. California State Library. Web. 18 Sept. 2010.
  • Cook, J.M. (Jan). “Bookmobiles.” Message to the author. 29 June 2010. E-mail.
  • Dickson, Paul. The Library in America: A Celebration in Words and Pictures. New York: Facts On File Publications (1986). Print.
  • Hyatt, Jason and Angela Craig. “Adapt for Outreach: Taking Technology on the Road.” Computers in Libraries 29.9 (2009): 35-39. MasterFILE Premier. EBSCO. Cuesta College Library, San Luis Obispo, CA. Web. 5 Sept. 2010.
  • Libraries & the Jobs for Main Street Act: Urgent Action. American Library Association. Web. 28 Sept. 2010.
  • Kuzyk, Raya. “Digital Bookmobile Begins Tour. ” Library Journal 133.14 (2008): 16. MasterFILE Premier. EBSCO. Cuesta College Library, San Luis Obispo, CA. Web. 5 Sept. 2010.
  • Lake County. “Population Projections by County and Communities.” Demographics. Lake County. Web. 18 Sept. 2010.
Composed for Cuesta College LIBT 101, Introduction to Library Services

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