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Librarian in Residence: Libraries on Wheels

By Jessica Green on August 3, 2015


Jessica Green is a book addict and library card holder since the age of 3. She’s a librarian at the Ottawa Public Library and currently the Apartment613 Librarian-in-Residence, sharing a compendium of literary thoughts and tips.

In North America, we’re very lucky that in many communities, we live close to a branch of the local public library. According to Pew Research, most Americans live 5 miles or less to their local library. But most doesn’t mean all, and how do you reach people who can’t access a local branch easily?

At the CLA conference, we heard from many communities across the country which had some interesting ways of reaching their citizens. One of the more classic ways to provide library service is through the use of a bookmobile.  Bookmobiles can be either a larger bus, or a medium sized Sprinter van which are souped up with a small but mighty collection of all you’d expect from a bricks and mortar library branch. Since they are on wheels, these bookmobiles can go to where the people are, like community centres, schools, seniors’ centres, and other venues.

They often go to community events to create pop-up library spaces, and can even house some makerspace equipment and a gadget bar to enhance digital literacy. You can see them hard at work in Edmonton, Toronto, Lethbridge, the Annapolis Valley, and here in Ottawa.The Ottawa Public Library has two bookmobiles, one regular and one mini bookmobile, which service stops all over Ottawa and beyond. For the latest bookmobile news, and to see if you have a stop near you, click on this link for more information. They do make appearances at events all over Ottawa, so keep an eye out so you can learn how to make a banana that plays music!

One of my personal favourite programs involving libraries and vehicles is the Library Live and On Tour, a very cool riff on the classic bookmobile. Created by the Fraser Valley Regional Library, Lili (as the car is affectionately known) is the library hot rod on a mission to show how awesome libraries can be and to get people reading. Lili visits trade shows, hockey games and a variety of other different venues and according to the website, “When not in the public eye, LiLi makes private visits to a variety of community agencies serving marginalized and sometimes socially excluded people (food banks, soup kitchens, transition houses)”. Lili also has a gadget bar, free books to give away and will make sure that everyone walks away with a library card, even if they don’t have an address.

So if you get a chance, try visiting a bookmobile and see what a library on wheels is like.

Quick Picks

  • glam_019_lgThe Do-it-Yourself Guide to the Big Motherfucking Sad, by Adam Gnade: A short but snappy little zine that helps keep that funk away. If you need a quick pep talk, borrow this little tome.
  • In the Unlikely Event, by Judy Blume: Based on true events that Judy Blume witnessed as a child, a small town in New Jersey tries to deal with the aftermath of three plane crashes. The story is told from multiple viewpoints, and it is interesting to see how all the characters cope.
  • Black Widow 1: The Finely Woven Thread, by Nathan Edmonson and Phil Noto: Until we get a Black Widow movie, this is a good stopgap! Phil Noto’s art is phenomenal and the story is a good spy thriller.