A couple of days ago, we had our first interview published on A Wandering Eyre. We answered several questions about our project – how it will operate and how we will interact with other organizations. A Wandering Eyre is a Librarian blog, and so the questions were a librarian’s questions. One question prompted us to elaborate on what we mean by “bookmobile-for-hire”:
With the bookmobile-for-hire component of our endeavor, we will empty our shelves and make our space, our time, and our professionalism available to all mutually interested parties for whatever (mutually agreeable) purposes they see fit. One organization that could naturally benefit from a bookmobile-for-hire is the public library.
As mentioned in our blog, the entirety of Texas had only 12 bookmobiles in 2005 (as reported by the State Department of Education) and the number of reported bookmobiles dropped to 8 in the 2009 Public Libraries in the United States Survey. Considering that Texas is third among the states in number of public libraries (with 559) and is second in land area, there is a very real gap in library resources and library services.
We both have substantial experience working in public libraries and understand that there is a need, particularly among smaller library systems, to widen their patron base and to let folks know about the range of services they provide. By bringing the library to the community instead of waiting for the community to come to the library, our bookmobile will help them accomplish just that.
I imagine our collaboration with public libraries would most commonly take the form of a library card drive, where we would work side-by-side with representatives from a given public library to sign folks up for library cards, and then direct their new members inside the bookmobile, where they can choose from a selection of materials the library hand-picked to represent itself. In these scenarios, I imagine that the library’s ILS is on a laptop they’ve brought along, so registration is basically the same process, just mobilized. But it’s pretty easy just to keep a spreadsheet of what’s been checked out and by who and to manually enter it into an ILS afterwards.
While our space is likely most amenable to public libraries, we would be crazy not to make it available to other interested parties (school & academic libraries, museums, artists & art galleries, bookstores, etc.) for pop-up shops & galleries, exhibits, and the like. Part of the appeal of this bookmobile-for-hire model is the potential for the bookmobile to be a sort of incubator space, where individuals and organizations can try out new ideas and new services.
And as far as we’re concerned, that’s just the tip of the iceberg! We look forward to working closely with community members and local organizations, so if you’re in the Houston-area and interested, don’t hesitate to follow us on Twitter or send us an email (theBTPL at gmail dot com) with any big ideas, grand designs, or just plain old crazy schemes.