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Posts Tagged ‘mobile libraries’

National Library Week: 6 Mobile Libraries Bring Books to the World

Americans like me who grew up in the 60’s and 70’s (in other words–old!) are likely to fondly remember bookmobiles. In some small or rural communities, they were the only way to borrow books. Today, there are less than 1,000 bookmobiles in use in the U.S. That could be because more than 306 million people in the U.S. lived within a public library service area in 2014. And anyone with a computer or smartphone can get free access to e-books and audiobooks, as well as the printed versions, from their local library.

But in other parts of the world, it’s not so easy. In many countries, there are very few public libraries, and in some, even schools don’t have books or libraries. And with only 35 percent of the world’s population connected to the internet, there are vast numbers of people–especially children–who have no way to gain access to books. In honor of National Library Week, this post explores six visionary mobile libraries that go to great lengths to promote the love of reading and literacy throughout their little part of the globe.

Argentina: Arma de Instruccion Masiva

In Argentina, the artist Raul Lemesoff converted a green 1979 Ford Falcon purchased from the Argentine armed forces into a tank-like vehicle with enough shelf space for 900 books, offering everything from novels to poetry. Lemesoff was inspired to build his Arma de Instruccion Masiva (Weapon of Mass Instruction) as a way of counteracting fear with education. On World Book Day in March 2015, he drove around the urban centers and rural communities of Argentina, offering free books to people on the street, as long as they promised to read them.

Colombia: Biblioburro

In 1990, a primary school teacher in Colombia named Luis Soriano Bohorquez was inspired to save rural children in Colombia’s Magdalena province from illiteracy. Every Saturday at dawn, Luis sets out to 15 select villages with his two donkeys, Alfa and Beto (their names combined translate to “alphabet”). Luis rides Alfa up to four hours each way, with Beto following behind carrying a sitting blanket and more books. Children get homework help, learn to read or listen to stories and geography lessons that he prepares. Soriano started his library with just 70 books from his own collection. Thanks to donations, he now has some 4,800 books piled up in his little house in the small town of La Gloria. In 2011, PBS made a documentary film about his work, Biblioburro: The Donkey Library.

Biblioburro, Traveling Library in Colombia
By Acción Visual/Diana Arias [CC BY-SA 3.0] via Wikimedia Commons

Italy: Bibliomotocarro

In 2003, retired teacher Antonio La Cava realized that children in the local villages of the Basilicata region in southern Italy didn’t have easy access to books. He bought a used Piaggio Ape motorbike van and modified it, creating the Bibliomotocarro (the Library Motor Car). The small, bright blue vehicle resembles a tiny house–including a Spanish-tiled roof, a chimney, and large glass windows that display the over 1,200 books inside. There are also built-in speakers to play the organ music he uses to announce his arrival. Each month, he travels over 500 kilometers (about 300 miles) to eight different villages, where children gather in the squares to wait for him.

Mongolia: Children’s Mobile Library

Dashdondog Jamba is a children’s book writer and publisher and has translated more than fifty children’s books by foreign writers into Mongolian. His Children’s Mobile Library transports books to children in the remote regions of the Gobi desert, and throughout every province of Mongolia. Since the early 1990’s, he has faced the challenges of mountainous terrain and severe weather conditions to travel over 50,000 miles by camel, on horseback, on carts pulled by horses or oxen, and more recently, with a van. Assisted by his wife and son, they often remain in one place for several days to allow as many children as possible to read the books.

Norway: Bokbaten Epos

In a coastal country that includes many islands and islets, with remote hamlets located along the fjords, the sea is often the easiest way to reach some communities. In 1959, a group of librarians in Hordaland pioneered the concept of a floating library. At first, a refurbished tobacco cutter was used, and it was an immediate success. In 1963, a larger 85-foot boat was specially built to serve as the seafaring mobile library. The new vessel also offers cultural programs such as films, plays, puppet shows and visits with authors. Bokbaten Epos (the Library Boat) carries about 6,000 books to the residents of 150 small communities in three counties along the West coast of Norway who don’t have their own libraries.

Bokbåten Epos

Bokbåten Epos by Andrva (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0] via Wikimedia Commons

Pakistan: Bright Star Mobile Library

When Saeed Malik returned to his home country of Pakistan in 2004 after working for the United Nations World Food Program for 35 years, he learned that most government and private elementary schools in the rural areas of the Islamabad Capital Territory did not have library services or books of their own. He founded the Bright Star Mobile Library in 2011 to introduce young Pakistanis to the world of reading and books. Four refurbished U.N. jeeps make weekly visits to about 20 elementary schools in the outskirts of the capital city, carrying over 1,000 books and serving nearly 6,000 young students.

 

Libraries Transform. Whether a library is on land, sea, or even donkey, those who bring books and resources to their local community are truly agents of transformation.

How are you celebrating National Library Week? Let us know in the comments below or Tweet us at #ProQuest.

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

little-library-1351491_1280

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!