Saturday, September 28, 2013

Bookmobile transformations mirror those in libraries

Mendocino County Library’s “Traveling Branch Library”
The National Center for Educational Statistics lists 864 library bookmobiles in operation in the United States, with an average annual cost of $200,000 to keep them on the road. For Library Journal, Bob Warburton argues that bookmobiles are in a state of transformation, much like the libraries they serve.

Bookmobiles that offer access to digital technology are likely to become more popular, according to Martha Buckner, Association of Bookmobile and Outreach Services (ABOS) president. However, Colleen Hall, outreach services coordinator for the St. Louis County Library, cautions that, “I think it really depends on what the community needs.”

Another trend is “green” technology in library bookmobiles.

In California, the Mendocino County “Traveling Branch Library” made its debut one year ago as a first-in-its-kind in the United States: an electric-diesel hybrid that operates with a prototype auxiliary generator. For a class assignment in Library and Information Technology, I argued that neighboring Lake County, Calif. should offer bookmobile services to geographically spread-out communities.

Ever since making regular visits to the Marin County Free Library bookmobile, I have been intrigued by these portable libraries’ capability to expand libraries’ physical reach. During a year that I worked in Bel Marin Keys, I visited a branch library once. But the bookmobile parked every couple of weeks across the street from my employer and I visited it nearly every time.

In Library Journal, Warburton noted that the El Paso Public Library serves 800,000 residents in an area spread over 255 square miles:
“In El Paso, TX, if it weren’t for bookmobiles, thousands of residents might never get Internet access, tips on preparing a résumé, or a chance to look over some books their children might like. The region is too sprawling for the fixed-site libraries to reach everyone.”
EPPL has one bookmobile and one techmobile to provide computer access, email, job-seeking resources, hands-on instruction and more. Dionne L. Mack, EPPL director of library services told Warburton that only 34 percent of homes are wired for the Internet.

Warburton compares purchasing an “outreach vehicle” to a family choosing a car.
“You can get one used, save a few bucks, and hope you’re not simply inheriting someone else’s problems, or invest in a new model, selecting the little extras and custom features to get the most for your sizable cash outlay.”
Warburton viewed a 37-foot vehicle, model year 2003 for $54,900 and a 32-foot, 1994 van for $23,000 “or best offer” available used online. In Bay County Library System, by comparison, a brand new bookmobile -- a 30-foot 2014 Blue Bird bus, cost about $196,000.

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