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Libraries on the Go: Trains, Planes… and Camels?

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Photo of a Little Free Library by LisetteBrodey [Public Domain], via Pixabay

When I think of a library, I picture the traditional services of a brick-and-mortar library, such as my neighborhood public library that I am fortunate enough to frequent. However, not all libraries are housed inside buildings. After reading Jennifer Genetti’s Little Free Libraries, which detailed the worldwide movement of miniature curbside libraries, I wondered what other nontraditional ways librarians and other bibliophiles are sharing their books with their communities? More specifically, I was curious as to what types of mobile libraries exist today.

A search on the Internet and via ProQuest (i.e., by conducting a Boolean search using the terms “mobile libraries” and “library outreach” and also by searching types of library outreach, such as bookmobiles) revealed many unique ways libraries and other organizations and institutions reach out to disadvantaged and underserved populations who don’t have easy access to reading materials. Additionally, librarians and others are finding ways to reach out to those who are on the go, such as commuters.

Five Examples of Unconventional Libraries

Books on the L

Person on train platform holding a book from the Books on the L program in Chicago, Illinois (Photo used with permission by Chicago Ideas.)

Riding on a Train

Lucky commuters riding on Chicago’s “L” transit system can take, read, and share books of all genres in an initiative launched in 2015 by Chicago Ideas called Books on the L.  The books can be identified by yellow stickers that include the words “Take it. Read it. Return it.” L train riders are encouraged to take a picture of books they find and enjoy and post them on social media with the hashtag #BooksOnTheL.

Waiting for a Plane 

airport

Photo of the Free Library of Philadelphia outpost in the Philadelphia International Airport. (Photo used with permission by the Free Library of Philadelphia)

Passengers waiting to board their flight at the Philadelphia International Airport can read and relax in an outpost of the Free Library of Philadelphia. The library outpost, created in 2013, offers comfortable lounge chairs and free Wi-Fi to access to digital content, including podcasts and audiobooks.

Delivered on a Boat

For the past four decades, those living on one of the remote islands around the town of Pargas in Western Finland have been getting their books delivered by the Public Library of Pargas’s book boat service staffed by library volunteers. Books are delivered to patrons of all ages during summer months.

Street Books

Diana Rempe, street librarian, with Street Books’ new bike library. (Photo used with permission by Street Books, Portland, OR).

On a Bicycle 

Street Books, founded in 2011 by Laura Moulton in Portland, Oregon, is a bicycle-powered mobile library that enables the homeless to check out library books. Patrons do not have to provide proof of address or identification to receive a library card.

On a Camel 

The Kenya National Library Service has been using camels to reach nomadic populations in North Eastern Kenya since 1985. In addition to books, the camels carry tents and mats for patrons to use when reading in the field.

Camel

Camel by OpenRoadPR [Public Domain], via Pixabay

Share with Us!

Do you work or volunteer at a mobile library? If so, tell us what type of mobile library and what you like best about it in the comments below or Tweet us at #ProQuest!

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