OLOS Columns ALA's Office for Literacy and Outreach Services

1Aug/09Off

Interviewing and Hiring for Outreach Services

by Kathryn Totten, Manager of Outreach and Thornton Branch, Rangeview Library District, Thornton, CO

Writing a job description that will get results
Your Outreach Service department is running like a well oiled machine and then one of your valued employees decides to move or retire. When hiring for Outreach services you must write a job description that will attract someone with the “outreach spirit”. Include words such as flexible, enthusiastic, and co-operative in the job description. You need someone who can maintain accurate records, work with mobile services technology, and comfortably serve all ages and all cultures. If a particular foreign language would be helpful in your area, include this in the job description. Outreach is challenging, but fun. Be sure to let the job candidates know that this is a job they will love.

Determining the qualities you seek for outreach workers
What are the qualities you need? Outreach is physically demanding. Most outreach departments require the ability to serve toddlers, kids, adults and seniors with equal enthusiasm. The perfect candidate for outreach will be adaptable! He will enjoy the challenge of working in a bookmobile with minimal air conditioning and will think nothing of pushing 500 pound book carts into the lobby of a senior living facility. Your perfect candidate will enjoy the variety of going to several neighborhoods every day, and they will even remember most of the patron’s names.

Education and experience qualifications
While library experience is helpful, some of the best outreach workers I have worked with have come from other professions. Experience driving a large vehicle may be preferred, but willingness to learn to drive the bookmobile is most important. Skills such as organization, interpersonal skills and familiarity with literature may be developed in business, non profit work or teaching. Are you looking for an MLS librarian to manage the collection and develop programs? Are you looking for the fresh perspective and technological fearlessness that a college student will bring to your department? These questions will determine the education and experience qualifications for your open position.

Driving record, DOT physical
It is important for the candidate you select to have a clean driving record if they will be driving a library vehicle. Let them know that you will check! Some libraries also require drivers to pass a DOT physical. For most employees this physical qualifies them for 2 years, but for some with physical conditions such as high blood pressure, an annual physical is required. If your vehicle requires drivers with a Commercial Drivers License, you must determine if you are willing to pay for the training and test or if you will limit your search to candidates who already possess this license.

Choosing between 2 great candidates
Great interview questions can bring out the best qualities in the candidate or alert you to potential trouble spots. You may have two candidates with just the experience and skill you are looking for. How will you select the right one for your department? Ask a question that lets them think big. “Describe a perfect day in outreach services.” “Tell us about an outreach service you have dreamed about starting.” “Tell us why you believe you can give outstanding customer services to children, families and seniors.” This kind of open ended question lets you see the real personality of the candidate. Usually someone emerges as a bit above the rest. Someone will show that they really have “outreach spirit”.

-Kathryn Totten is the Manager of Outreach and Thornton Branch for Rangeview Library District in Thornton, CO. Before joining Rangeview, she served as the bookmobile librarian for Arapahoe Library District. Kathy has been an advocate for library support for preschool literacy and adult literacy. She is the author of Family Literacy Storytimes (August 2009) from Neal Schuman Publishers, and the very popular Storytime Crafts series from Highsmith Press.

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1Jul/09Off

New Bookmobile in 2009

Joyce Voss, Community Services Manager, Arlington Heights (IL) Memorial Library

Following the national guidelines for bookmobile replacement, the purchase of a new vehicle has been in the Arlington Heights Memorial Library’s long range plan for several of years. Scheduled to be funded in 2008/2009 budget, the detailed process of making it a reality began in early 2008.

Staff had been gathering ideas and taking pictures for two years, especially in light of new service demands and discovering good ideas while touring other bookmobiles. The high priorities noted by the staff included improving our magazine display, lowering the bottom outside step, some new design that would accommodate the increasing number of reserves, and adding a power saving inverter. The official new bookmobile committee was formed: the assistant director, head of maintenance and the manager and two other staff from Community Services department, from which mobile service emanates.

After debating the merits of hiring a consultant, we did. Michael Swendrowski of Specialty Vehicle Services met with the committee. The initial discussion revolved around the new innovations wanted and what improvements were needed over the library’s 1993 bookmobile. From the discussion, he drew up a set of specifications and sent them to us within the week. The committee went over those and made adjustments, asked questions, and discussed alternatives. This specification process was repeated several times until the plan fully reflected what was wanted.

Over the next few months, several sets of specs were reviewed; the consultant worked with AHML’s concerns, and did much of the negotiations concerning the specifications with the manufacturer. Matthews, our manufacturer, however, did send us regular updates on progress being made with the building of the bus. Making decisions about colors for the interior upholstery and carpet and for the exterior design was done in consultation with the library’s graphic artists. Another big decision concerned the handicap lift. It comes from underneath the bus and through a split inner door that houses the DVDs. On the older bus the lift also came from underneath, but the door was a very wide one.

Two inspection trips were made to the manufacturer in North Carolina. After the shell of the bus arrived at Matthews, the first visit was a pre-construction conference between the library’s consultant and the manufacturer. Several weeks before actual delivery of the bookmobile to Arlington Heights, a second visit occurred. This time two staff also made the journey. The consultant checked the mechanical and technical aspects and library staff viewed the vehicle from a service perspective. In that trip several small details were straightened out.

Before the arrival of the new bookmobile, two important factors were decided, a plan for placement of the bookmobile collection, and what would be done with the bookmobile that was being replaced. There was more shelving on the new vehicle. Decisions on how to best utilize the additional space resulted in drawn plan.

About fifteen years ago it was decided to file our non-fiction, not by Dewey numbers, but by a category system. Each of the 18 categories is identified by colored dots. There are posted charts on the bus to guide patrons. The categorization of the non-fiction, in which adult and children’s books are filed together, allows shelving by size and makes for a nicer appearance in a small area. Picture books are randomly arranged in the easy book bins. All the fiction is in alpha order; adult and children’s materials are separate. A leasing plan is used to insure that we have the newest titles and the ever important best sellers. Most of leasing plan non-fiction is not part of our category system.

With the coming of the new bus, what was to happen with the older vehicle? It was decided to rent a spot at a local storage facility until the new bookmobile was on the road. The plan was to be in service within two days of the new vehicle’s arrival. After that the older vehicle would be put up for sale. Selling the bus had to follow guidelines set up by the Board, and eventually it was listed with SVS and sold.

On Saturday, April 18, 2009, the new 35 ft bookmobile arrived and four drivers received intensive training including the mechanical aspects and, of course, driving the vehicle which is three feet longer than the one being replaced. Drivers commented on the gas pedal, which adjusts to accommodate the height of the driver, the power driver’s seat and air cushion, the marvelous oversize mirrors, the braking system, the feel of the gears and, of course, the new turning arc.

After the drivers training, the plan was to fill the bookmobile with items from the Community Services collection within the department, then do some adjusting by bringing the bestsellers from the older vehicle. Once the new bookmobile was filled, then the rest of the materials from the older bus would be brought into the department shelves.

Doing the training and the transferring of materials in one long day, in hindsight, was probably too ambitious. Time needed to adjust the shelves to fit the needs of our material placement plan was much longer than anticipated. By day’s end the older vehicle had not been emptied. This was accomplished on the following day, Sunday.

Happily the new bookmobile was ready for the regular stops the following Monday. Patrons were thrilled with the longer vehicle that had higher ceilings, more windows, an additional sky light a window beside the back desk, a lower first step, convenient hand rails, an additional three drawers of CDs, and a knockout magazine display. Among the features which we replicated from the older vehicle were very sturdy revolving paper back racks, pull-out shelves for CDs, and the picture book bins. The staff, in particular, enjoys the roomier area near the back desk for carrying the ever increasing number of reserves.

The buyer has 30 days to note any difficulties and work with the manufacturer to make things right. Our list included a cracked glass on a dashboard gauge, a faulty people counter, a lock problem, frayed carpet near the front desk, a missing license plate mount, an erratic warning buzzer for the steps, and a mysterious noise coming from one of the rear tires on the drivers’ side. As of this writing (early May 2009) all but the mysterious tire noise has been resolved. The manufacturer is still working with us on this last item.

Having been involved in the selection of our 1993 vehicle, this purchase was less hectic due to a dedicated committee, and the use of the consultant. AHML should be set for the next fifteen years to serve patrons on the road.

-Joyce Voss is Community Services Manager at the Arlington Heights (IL) Memorial Library

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29Jun/09Off

Look How Far We Have Come in the 21st Century!

By Jan Meadows, Mobile Library Services Coordinator

My fellow outreach partners: Honk your horns, reach over your shoulder and pat your back and then celebrate!  We have come a long way in a short while!  We are so busy reaching out and driving the byways that we seldom take time to review the miles behind us.  Those miles are littered with accomplishments, large and small. They were attained person by person, library by library, and organization by organization.

In June of 2002, OLOS (Office of Literacy and Outreach) presented a Pre-Conference at ALA Annual, “Adult Literacy and Outreach in Libraries: Different Voices, Common Quest”.  This conference truly inspired me and all of those in attendance.  I especially remember two of the speakers. John Kretzmann, author of Building Communities From The Inside Out:  A Path Toward Finding and Mobilizing a Community’s Assets, shared his concept of finding the “gifts” that communities we serve have to offer our libraries instead of just focusing on what libraries have to offer them. (A Mariachi Band, art from a community center class, etc.) His message has stuck with me to this very day. Outreach can be a two way street where everyone benefits, your library and your target audience.  Sandra Rios Balderrama, Director of the ALA Office for Diversity (at that time), also gave a moving talk, telling outreach staff to walk tall and be proud of their service.  (I had tears in my eyes by the end of her speech!)  Every speaker at this conference enlivened and delighted their audience.  This was also the first time I met Satia Marshall Orange, Director of OLOS, and her staff.  What a resource they are for all of us in the outreach field! I left the conference feeling so exhilarated and motivated!

In my mind, this preconference, along with the National Bookmobile conferences of the 1990s, was the impetus for bookmobile/outreach staff to really get involved on a national level.  Each year since 2002, we have grown in visibility.  These are just a few of the ALA/OLOS programs that followed that preconference:

  • “To Bookmobile or Not: A Management and Community Decision”
  • "Urban Bookmobiles:  Highlights of Several Bookmobile Services in the Urban Setting”
  • “Bookmobile Connectivity”
  • “Outreach 101”
  • “Equity of Choice”
  • “Reach Outside the Box”
  • “Stellar Senior Outreach”

Each year, the programs had better attendance and by the 2004 programs the rooms assigned were not big enough and people spilled out into the hall, still listening to the programs even though they could not get inside.

We became so visible in fact that the ALA Bookmobile Sub Committee was formed in 2006 to keep the momentum going.  “Bookmobile Sunday” and “The Parade of Bookmobiles”, which are now expected features at each ALA Annual Conferences, were initiated by this vivacious group.  And (this is extremely exciting to us longtime bookmobilers!) in April 2010, Wednesday of National Library Week, will be National Bookmobile Day!  AWESOME!!

The previously mentioned, National Bookmobile Conference, morphed into the Great American Bookmobile Conference under the undying leadership and energy of John Philip (the original Mr. Bookmobile!) and Dr. Bernie Vavrek of Clarion University (PA).  Unless you are very new to outreach services you know that these two gentlemen were tireless in promoting bookmobile and outreach services and put their blood, sweat and tears into keeping the conference alive so we all had a place to call home.  They also started a listserv (now mailman@abos-outreach.org) where staff from all over the world could come to find answers and camaraderie, without having to travel anywhere!  There is now a second listserv via ALA  bookmobiles@ala.org . Any of you who have been around for at least 15 years know that “back in the day” we would have died and gone to bookmobile heaven had we had these two advantages!

The Great American Bookmobile Conference continued to grow and in 2004 it spawned the Association of Bookmobile and Outreach Services (ABOS) which continues to flourish.  2008 was an absolute banner year for bookmobile and outreach services because ABOS became an affiliate of ALA!  Now the vast knowledge and resources of both associations are available to assist all bookmobile staff as well as their many collaborators in outreach.

But, that’s not all!  Two new books (so far!) appeared in this 21st century that provide innovative ideas and outstanding guidance for those in bookmobile and outreach services.  The first, From Outreach to Equity  Innovative Models of library Policy and Practice, was published by ALA in 2004.  The theme of this tome is how to move traditional outreach services beyond just serving the underserved and forward towards providing equity of access via equitable service delivery.  A wealth of information at your fingertips!

The second book, debuting mid 2009, is titled On the Road With Outreach.  This volume will walk you through all types of library outreach services, covering the how-to basics of starting up, running and managing the programs, as well as, marketing, program evaluation and advocacy. This is a must for new comers as well as long time staff in the outreach field.

It is our good fortune in the 21st century to have so many well known experts available for our learning experience.  And we are going to make these gurus even more accessible to each and every one of you!  Those of you who have read this column since 2003 know that it has only had several new columns a year.  Well that is about to change!  Each month there will be a column written by a guest columnist, each one highly respected in their field.  Here is the lineup for the rest of 2009:

  • July: Joyce Voss, Community Services Manager, Arlington Heights Memorial Library in Arlington Heights, Illinois
  • August: Kathryn Totten,Manager of Outreach Services and Thornton Branch,Rangeview Library District in Thornton, Colorado
  • September:  Michael Swendrowski, Chairman, ALA Bookmobile Subcommittee & President, SPECIALTY VEHICLE SERVICES, LLC in Muskego, Wisconsin
  • October: Kathy Mayo, Outreach Services Manager,Lee County Library System in Estero, Florida
  • November: Cindy McFadden,Outreach Services Coordinator, Arapahoe Library District in Centennial, Colorado
  • December: Ian Stringer,Editor, IFLA Public Library Section Newsletter,Editor, “Service Point” UK Mobile Library Journal in Selby, North Yorkshire, UK

So remember to tune in each month for new, interesting, educational and fun information to help you serve your patrons, your library and your community.  I am excited about this venture and look forward to reading right along with you!  I hope to continue to stop by every once in a while in the future as a contributor also.  I have loved doing this column for the past eight years and have made so many new friends and contacts via this space.  I hope you will continue to keep in touch with me jmeadows@ppld.org and with all the new columnists you will meet.

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29May/08Off

The Birthing of a Bookmobile

By Jan Meadows, Mobile Library Services Coordinator, Pikes Peak (CO) Library District

I went to a new doctor the other day, which of course meant that I had to answer all sorts of questions about my medical history.  When we got to the question, "How many pregnancies have you had?” I wanted to say:  "Well, I had two children, but I have also birthed one lobby stop van, two bookmobiles and I have another bookmobile ready to deliver in two weeks."   But, a saner response came forth when I had a flash of the psychiatric evaluation the doc would probably recommend after that answer!   However, if you have been responsible for purchasing your library’s bookmobile or outreach vehicle, I am sure you can identify with the feeling.

You spend months and even years planning for that new mobile.  Just like parents, you spend a lot of time figuring the budget this way and that and coming up with ways to afford the addition to your “family” of mobile units.   Both of our new “babies” here at PPLD came to us as a result of some out of the box thinking about funding.  In my 21st Century Bookmobile column #13, I told you about our CMAQ grant which funded a major part of our new city mobile that is arriving on June 9th.  Our new Lobby Stop van, which arrived in February of this year, was also funded in part by a grant that was not a usual source for libraries.

In early 2007, The Colorado Trust announced a Healthy Aging Initiative grant aimed at funding assisted living facilities with special projects to improve the lives and health of 65+ seniors living in their facilities.  Our astute PPLD Foundation Executive Officer, Dolores Fowler, saw this grant announcement and quickly pulled together a team to discern how we could use this grant to serve our senior patrons.  The team had members from Adult Services, Branches and Outreach, the Senior Connection Committee and our Finance Office.  This team should be the “poster child” for the team concept!  In one short month we all pulled together and completed an application for this grant.  It was a long shot, we thought, but we have wanted to start a lobby stop service for at least 17 years, so we went for it!  One year to the day from our first team meeting, February 14, we celebrated the Grand Opening of the PPLD Lobby Stop Service.  Yes!  The Colorado Trust liked the innovative approach and awarded us a 4-year HAI grant for a total of $240,000 ($60,000 per year).

In the grant application we proposed that by bringing a 30 minute, interactive program, plus book carts filled with library materials for checkout, into 15 Assisted Living Centers within our Library District, we could improve the emotional well being of the residents, which in turn would improve their mental health.

The programs are relatively simple programs, designed to promote interaction and spark conversation and discussion among the residents.  We soon discovered that competition still reigns with the seniors we visit.  They compete with each other and with themselves to remember trivia facts, or identify the location of scenes in beautiful photographs.  One group was discussing and pondering a photograph for a while and then became quiet, so our staff asked “Do you want us to tell you?”  Several residents loudly said “No! We are still thinking!”  Amazingly, many of these folks have not really interacted with each other, but just let two of them discover, as a result of a trivia question, that they both lived in Kentucky or Texas at some point in their lives, and they are soon leaning across the table or off in a corner after a program, chatting up a storm.  One lady who insisted that she did not wish to talk with others in the facility, reluctantly agreed to just sit in on the program (but not take part!).  By the end, she was leaning over the back of her chair and conversing with the ladies behind her.

By bringing the books and other library materials into the residents we are enabling them to: continue reading for entertainment and education, learn new activities such as painting with water colors, enjoy movies and music, and once again be active library patrons.  Accessing a library branch, or even the bookmobile, is physically impossible for most of these seniors, so bringing the materials into their lobby puts happy smiles on many faces.   Soon after we started our visits, fellow residents started recommending books to each other and stopping other residents just passing by to tell them they should take a book.  It has been a thrilling experience for our staff to see this service grow right before our eyes, not unlike parents who are happy to see their babies grow and develop.

Conversely, just as there are rewarding experiences, you also learn it is often hard work being a “parent “.  The Colorado Trust has made the grant a learning experience for each of the grantees.  They have provided a Technical Assistant for each organization awarded a grant, as well as, an overall organizational assessment and two day trainings for such things as program evaluation.  While all of these aids are to help us with our grant program execution, evaluation and reporting, they are useful tools that can be applied to other projects within our departments and programs throughout the organization.  We have done work plans, evaluation plans, budget plans and outcome measurement worksheets, to name a few.  We meet regularly with our technical assistant, Dr. Jana Smith, who is so smart and organized that I am sure she is just shaking her head as she leaves a meeting with us.  Luckily, she also has a good sense of humor!  And, as my parents always said to me, hard work pays off.

Oops, I have digressed from the birthing process.  After you have the funding worked out for your new addition, you move on to research.  Just as you search for the best doctor to care for you and then your newborn baby, you need to find the best vendor for your particular needs in a vehicle.  You question everyone you know that has had a baby about their doctor and likewise, you question other outreach staff about their specialty vehicle builders.  Then you request in-depth information and conduct interviews with the vendors themselves.  You gather samples of other library’s specifications. You also learn what not to do because others have already made the mistake before you and are kind enough to share it with you.  Onward you march into the adventure of writing the perfect set of specifications for the vehicle you want and sending out your RFP.  After reviewing bids and making a vendor selection, you still have months of floor plan drawing manipulation, phone calls, emails and in person meetings. Then there are usually the unforeseen issues that pop up during production as well as production progress reports from your vendor.  There are also trips to see your vehicle being created; a very exciting part of the process!

Then, when all this planning and building is completed and that new vehicle drives up to your library, laughter abounds, tears of joy are shed and ohs and awes echo around the new kid on the block.  You are as smitten!!  All the work and ups and downs are suddenly so worth it.  Your bookmobile is born!  It is a glorious day.

Thanks for tuning in again here at 21st Century Bookmobiles and as always, I am happy to hear from you anytime at  jmeadows@ppld.org.

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1May/08Off

The Year of the Bookmobile!

By Jan Meadows, Bookmobile Supervisor, Pikes Peak (CO) Library District

Somebody please tell me how time gets away so quickly!  I am sure part of the reason is that there is so much going on in the Bookmobile and Outreach field these days that it is hard to keep on top of it all.  But that is a good thing, right?!  It means you all are making a difference in the library world, as well as, in the world of the patrons.

In January 2007 I attended the awesome New Zealand Mobile Libraries Conference!  I have been trying to think of words to describe what a great conference it was and how beautiful New Zealand and its people are, but I keep coming up woefully short!

The conference was held in the middle of the gorgeous, green, North Island at the Wairakei Resort in Taupo.  Cathie Richards, Mobile Librarian, North Shore Libraries, and conference organizer, did not miss a single detail in preparing a well-rounded, informative and fun conference.  There were speakers from Australia, the United Kingdom, the United States and New Zealand.  There were also two attendees from Singapore. Topics covered all aspects of outreach services including: Occupational Health and Safety Guidelines for Mobile Services, How a Library-wide Floating Collection can work for Mobile Services, Services to the Aged and Housebound, Mobile Libraries Online, and 101 Things You Need to Know About Mobile Library Service and Keeping Bookmobiles Alive.  There were two very interesting and entertaining sessions: Mobile Libraries Around the World and the History of Mobile Libraries In New Zealand.  Lastly, there were two sessions regarding the Australian Innovations in Public Library Mobile Services and a report on a Study of Mobile Librarians and the issues of their employment.  Every session was excellent.

There is no way I can impart here, in this space, all the knowledge that the conference goers were able to gather.   I can say that I was so very impressed with the Australian and New Zealand bookmobiles (or Mobiles, as the say).  They are so innovative in their designs!  Some of the Australian mobile units have “pods” (what we would call pull-outs on RVs) which make them big as a building when they are all set up.  The NZ Mobiles on display at the conference were so open and airy feeling, even though they were the same width and length as our US bookmobiles. I couldn’t figure out how they did that.  Truly inspiring!  I also found it very interesting that they had done the study of mobile services and developed the OHS guidelines specific to mobile library service.  I learned something new from every speaker….now that is a good conference when you can say that!  Here is a link to the web site for the conference.  Take a peek!

http://www.shorelibraries.govt.nz/MobileConference2007-speakers.php

The conference was not only informative and educational…it was fun.  Cathie arranged a Jet Boat ride down a beautiful river as one of the activities.  You haven’t lived until you have taken a 50 mph ride down a river and then have the driver do a 360-degree spin!  A hike through a thermal field followed that.
Another evening we had a wonderful dinner at a vineyard with actors portraying the “Fawlty Towers” cast (John Cleese was in the original show).  If you aren’t familiar with that TV show don’t feel alone, I had no clue what was going on for the first 20 minutes!  But it was a zany evening that I will never forget.  I can’t remember when I have laughed so long and so much.  It was a hoot!…and the dinner was fabulous.

Another smart thing Cathie arranged was for each session to be recorded on CD.  What a great service this was.  You were able to take the entire presentation home with you instead of hastily scribbled notes.  In fact, I told Cathie she should make a career out of conference organizing….she is a natural at it!  Thank you, Cathie, for inviting me to take part in this excellent conference and thanks to all the NZ folks for their generous hospitality.  I made some wonderful friends as a bonus!

Lastly, the really good news is that the Association of Bookmobile and Outreach Services conference in St. Louis, MO, October 3 – 5, 2007 will have three of the speakers from the New Zealand conference presenting programs.  How terrific is that!  Visit http://www.abos-outreach.org/annual_conference.htm for details.

But, before that conference happens, there is the ALA Conference in Washington, DC.  The ALA Bookmobile Sub Committee and the ALA Office for Literacy and Outreach have put together an exciting program to be held on Sunday, June 24, 2007 from 10:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m., titled “Mobile Outreach: Access at its Best”.  You really don’t want to miss this!  It includes a General Session with four dynamic library administrators sharing their experience with and commitment to mobile service, a Free Lunch generously sponsored by Matthews Specialty Vehicles of Greensboro, NC, and then, four practical workshops for you to choose from (Marketing, Collection Management, Risk Management and Vehicle Purchasing) all presented by experts in the field.

And as if that isn’t enough,  there will be a Bookmobile Rally on Tuesday, June 26th, showcasing mobile outreach to members of Congress!  And….the Diversity Fair is focused on Bookmobile Service this year.  Go to http://www.ala.org/cfapps/olos/dfform.html  to register and promote your mobile service.

Yes, people, it is the Year of the Bookmobile at ALA.  Join in and shine with your counterparts from across the nation!

See what I mean?  There is so much going on in our outreach  world!  Isn’t it marvelous?  I am just in awe of all that you do out there and I love to hear your individual stories.  Also, in my next column I would like to talk about Mobile Library Service vs. Bookmobiles. How do you feel about the movement to change the service name?   Please feel free to contact me at  jmeadows@ppld.org

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29Jan/08Off

ABOS Annual Conference Wrap-up

By Jan Meadows, Bookmobile Supervisor, Pikes Peak (CO) Library District

It seems I am always returning from a conference when I write these columns. I will admit right here in print, I am a conference addict!  I love hearing new ideas and learning about new programs and processes at the sessions, and visiting with the vendors (okay, and getting their freebies!).  I thrive on the networking with the other attendees as I have gotten some of the best information that way.  Conferences equate to a shot of adrenaline into my bloodstream for me.  I feel energized and rejuvenated when I return to work.  So, lucky me, I just came back from St. Louis, MO and the Association of Bookmobile and Outreach Services (ABOS) Annual Conference, which was yet another excellent experience.

My favorite part of the conference this time however, was, as chairperson of the John Philip Award Committee, presenting the award to a very deserving person.

A few ABOS members who wanted to honor John Philip, “Mr. Bookmobile”, founded the award at the 2006 conference.  Fittingly, the first recipient was John Philip!  Without John our conferences would not be in existence today.  He started them back in the ‘80s and was the driving force that kept them going in the early years.  Upon his retirement from the Ohio State Library he joined forces with Dr. Bernard Vavrek of Clarion University and together they kept the much-needed conference alive and thriving.  The award founders, and this year’s first award committee, envisioned it as a coveted award, the “Bookmobile Oscar”, which would be selected impartially and awarded annually to someone who has made significant contributions to the Bookmobile and Outreach Field.

This year’s recipient was Carol Hole, retired (2006) Outreach Coordinator of the Alachua County Library District, Gainesville, FL.  Carol was innovative and tireless in providing bookmobile and outreach services in her 32-year library career.  She was a well-known consultant in the field, as well as, an active mentor to everyone in search of help or answers for their particular service.  She was well known on the ABOS listserv because of her willingness to respond to questions about bookmobile specifications, vehicle maintenance, service policies, stocking the collection, and much, much more.  She was especially encouraging to “newbies” in outreach and many remember her fondly for this.  Many of the newer ABOS members never met her in person, but readily recognized her name from the listserv or from her over thirty articles sprinkled throughout library literature.  Others knew her for her Bookmobile Song Book containing 10 songs about bookmobile life, a real joy to read, especially after a tough day on the road.  Carol use to like to refer to bookmobile staff as “Road Warriors”, often prefacing it with “Semper Fi”

Knowing that Carol had been seriously ill, the award committee decided to break one of the rules it had just created for the award, and notify her before the conference that she had been selected to receive the John Philip Award for 2007.  Carol was so very honored and thrilled, and, happy she had “not been forgotten” after retirement.  When I announced she was the recipient at the conference she received cheers and a standing ovation, even though she was not present.

Sadly, upon returning to work after the conference, we were notified that Carol had passed away on October 1, two days before we announced the award.  I was so happy we decided to notify her ahead of time!   And, I don’t know about anyone else, but I like to think that she was there with us in spirit and was sent on her way to the other side with our joy and adulation paving her way!  Semper Fi Carol!

In closing, I would also like to send a big thank you to everyone who attended and all of the speakers at the ABOS conference.  We had many new faces mixed in with the familiar ones, which was so terrific.  I especially want to send my thanks to Gayle Rowden and Bruce Myers, who traveled from the other side of the world (Australia!) to participate in and speak at this conference.  I am forever indebted to them for sharing their expertise and stories of Australian Mobile Library life with us.  Thank you also to all the vendors who supported the conference, we couldn’t do it with out them!   And last but not least, thanks to the St. Louis County Library for extending such warm hospitality to the attendees.

It has been a marvelous year for the ABOS Association and the officers, committee members and board succeeded in doing a fantastic job!

I look forward with great anticipation to the coming year and to seeing everyone next Fall in Columbus, OH, Oct. 8 – 11, 2008.  And as always, I enjoy hearing from you, so feel free to contact me at jmeadows@ppld.org .

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2Sep/07Off

Bookmobiles on Parade: Visit from an Exoffender

By Glennor Shirley, MSDE, Coordinator, Correctional Education Libraries.

In April 07, I took possession of the first prison library bookmobile in the nation. This bookmobile was designed specifically as a transitional information services unit for inmates who were on prerelease status in Maryland’s prisons, and who would return to the community in less than 1 year.

In June, we had not yet hired a bookmobile librarian, nor developed an adequate collection, but decided to participate in the Bookmobiles on Parade at the ALA Annual Conference in Washington D.C.

Our technology manager, Beverly Bowles, ever ready for a challenge, agreed to drive the bookmobile in the parade. On June 26, 2007, our bookmobile, displaying the logo of our partners, Maryland State Department of Education, Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services (DPSCS), and Maryland Correction Enterprise, and Correctional Education, joined nine other bookmobiles as they paraded around the Washington Convention Center. We later parked at Franklin Square and posted signs inviting passersby to visit inside.

By midday the temperature soared. To keep the vehicle cool, we periodically opened and closed the door, but always looked out for potential visitors. Two of our prison librarians took a break from the exhibits in the convention center and sat in the van. I went outside, sat on a nearby park bench facing the mobile unit, and saw a man approach the unit. His eyes were fixed on the public safety logo, his fingers almost tracing the letters. He turned to move away, but I went up to him saying, “Please go in”. He looked at me as I opened the door, hesitated, and then climbed the steps with a laugh, saying something like, “I spend enough time in prison I don’t want to get caught in these things again.” I assured him we were librarians who worked in prisons and we were showing off our new van designed specifically to provide to inmates with information they need to make a more successful transition back to their communities.

He still looked uncomfortable so I quickly pointed out the computers, the smart board, the books on trade, self esteem, starting your own businesses, GED, and also the many community directories.

“Which prison were you in?” I asked. He laughed and said he was in all of them, Virginia, Maryland, and the District. “But,” he added, “I have been out for a few years now, and I have a good job. I learned a trade and am now working in refrigeration. I can fix any cooling system on refrigerators and houses, and I am now going straight.”

He relaxed his stance, leaned towards the bookshelf, picked up a book titled: Taking Charge of Anger: How to Resolve Conflict, Sustain Relationship and Express Yourself Without Losing Control. He picked up another book with a title about believing in self. He tapped the subtitle. “You see this that was my problem. I did not believe in myself. I did not feel like I was good enough, I could not understand why my wife was still sticking with me. She came from a good family and did not have to put up with me. In prison they pointed out a lot of things to me and one day I looked at myself in the mirror and cried. I decided I did not want to remain as I was. I began to believe in myself.” He became quiet, reflective. We too remained silent.

Then I said, “It’s great. to hear you say you are now going straight. As prison librarians we are trying to help soon-to-be released inmates by providing them with information that will help them so they can be as successful as you.” He nodded toward each of us and said, “Thank you for doing what you do. “I am 45 years old, and now I know how to look after and nurture my children. I’ve learned to talk with them kindly rather than being abusive. The two young ones are doing well in school.” He paused for a moment, moving his head up and down. With a smile on his face, his eyes swept around to the four of us. “Ladies, most of the time you may not see the benefits of what you are doing, but if you can save only one,” he pointed his index finger for emphasis, “it is worth it. Keep up the good work. Thank you ladies. Now I must go back to my buddies. I was only curious when I saw all these vehicles parked here.”

He descended the steps. I watched him walk towards his buddies. In the bookmobile we remained silent for a while, awed by this chance affirmation of our work as prison librarians, I felt exquisitely happy that I took the plunge and agreed to participate in Bookmobiles on Parade. Who knew that on Franklin Square in Washington, DC., our most important visitor would be a representative of the population we are trying to reach?

--Glennor Shirley is the Library Coordinator for the Maryland State Department of Education, Correctional Education Libraries.  Prior to that she has served as the Former Manager, Randallstown Branch of Baltimore County Library and East Columbia Branch, Howard County Library; as the Bookmobile Librarian, Jamaica Library Service; and as a Special Librarian for Jamaica Broadcasting Corporation. She blogs at http://prisonlibrarian.blogspot.com/.

2May/07Off

Bookmobiles Abound: Report on New Zealand and Washington, DC

By Jan Meadows, Bookmobile Supervisor, Pikes Peak (CO) Library District.

Somebody please tell me how time gets away so quickly! I am sure part of the reason is that there is so much going on in the bookmobile and library outreach fields these days that it is hard to keep on top of it all. But that is a good thing, right? It means you all are making a difference in the library world while making a difference in the world of so many patrons.

In January 2007 I attended the awesome New Zealand Mobile Libraries Conference. I have been trying to think of words to describe what a great conference it was and how beautiful New Zealand and its people are, but I keep coming up woefully short.

The conference was held in the middle of the gorgeous, green North Island at the Wairakei Resort in Taupo. Cathie Richards, Mobile Librarian, North Shore Libraries, and conference organizer, did not miss a single detail in preparing a well-rounded, informative and fun conference. There were speakers from Australia, the United Kingdom, the United States and New Zealand. There were also two attendees from Singapore.

Topics covered all aspects of outreach services including:

* Occupational Health and Safety Guidelines for Mobile Services,
* How a Library-wide Floating Collection can work for Mobile Services,
* Services to the Aged and Housebound,
* Mobile Libraries Online,
* 101 Things You Need to Know about Mobile Library Service and
* Keeping Bookmobiles Alive.

There were two very interesting and entertaining sessions: Mobile Libraries Around the World and the History of Mobile Libraries In New Zealand. Lastly, there were two sessions regarding the Australian Innovations in Public Library Mobile Services and a report on a Study of Mobile Librarians and the issues of their employment. Every session was excellent.

There is no way I can impart here, in this space, all the knowledge that the conference goers were able to gather. I can say that I was so very impressed with the Australian and New Zealand bookmobiles (or "mobiles," as the say). They are so innovative in their designs! Some of the Australian mobile units have “pods” (what we would call pull-outs on RVs) which make them as big as a building when they are all set up. The NZ Mobiles on display at the conference were so open and airy, eventhough they were the same width and length as our U.S. bookmobiles. I couldn’t figure out how they did that. Truly inspiring! I also found it very interesting that they had done the study of mobile services and developed the OHS guidelines specific to mobile library service. I learned something new from every speaker; now that is a good conference when you can say that! Find more on the conference web site--take a peek!

The conference was not only informative and educational, it was fun. Cathie arranged a Jet Boat ride down a beautiful river as one of the activities. You haven’t lived until you have taken a 50 mph ride down a river and then have the driver do a 360-degree spin! A hike through a thermal field followed that.

Another evening we had a wonderful dinner at a vineyard with actors portraying the “Fawlty Towers” cast (John Cleese was in the original show). If you aren’t familiar with that TV show don’t feel alone, I had no clue what was going on for the first twenty minutes, but it was a zany evening that I will never forget. I can’t remember when I have laughed so long and so much. It was a hoot and the dinner was fabulous.

Another smart thing Cathie arranged was for each session to be recorded on CD. What a great service this was. You were able to take the entire presentation home with you instead of hastily scribbled notes. In fact, I told Cathie she should make a career out of conference organizing, she is a natural at it! Thank you, Cathie, for inviting me to take part in this excellent conference and thanks to all the NZ folks for their generous hospitality. I made some wonderful friends as a bonus!

ABOS October Conference
Lastly, the really good news is that the Association of Bookmobile and Outreach Services (ABOS) Conference in St. Louis, MO, October 3–5, 2007 will have three of the speakers from the New Zealand conference presenting programs. How terrific is that?

Annual 2007: Year of the Bookmobile
Mobile Outreach: Access at its Best is an exciting program put together by OLOS and the Bookmobile Subcommittee on Sunday, June 24, 2007 from 10:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. You really don’t want to miss this! The general session is comprised of four dynamic library administrators sharing their experience with and commitment to mobile service, which is followed by a free lunch generously sponsored by Matthews Specialty Vehicles of Greensboro, N.C. Four practical workshops presented by topic experts follow lunch. Topics include: marketing, collection management, risk management and vehicle purchasing.

And as if that isn’t enough, there will be a Bookmobile Rally on Tuesday, June 26, showcasing mobile outreach to members of Congress! And the OLOS Diversity & Outreach Fair is focused on bookmobile service this year, so register and promote your mobile service.

Yes, people, it is the Year of the Bookmobile at ALA. Join in and shine with your counterparts from across the nation!

See what I mean? There is so much going on in our outreach world! Isn’t it marvelous? I am just in awe of all that you do out there and I love to hear your individual stories. Also, in my next column I would like to talk about Mobile Library Service vs. Bookmobiles. How do you feel about the movement to change the service name? Please feel free to contact me at jmeadows@ppld.org.

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2Mar/06Off

10 Ways to Spice Up Bookmobile Life

By Jan Meadows, bookmobile supervisor at Pikes Peak (Colo.) Library District.

Some days I just want to bust out of the mold and do something different! We get so caught up in the day-to-day processes, schedules and routes and in doing the same circulation functions, shelving books, reserving the newest best seller, etc., etc. Yes, these things are vital and we do love doing them or we wouldn’t be here. But, today I was thinking that we should make our day fun too! In just a few minutes of “day dreaming” I came up with ten ways to spice things up.

Surprise the patrons with a celebration. You don’t need a holiday; celebrate “Just because it is today” or “Hooray, it’s March 23rd!” Put up some balloons and streamers or put bouquets of artificial (or real!) flowers on the desks and single flowers between the books on the shelves. Wear party hats or a flower behind your ear and brightly colored clothes. Hand out candy or bookmarks or those left over prizes from the last three years of Summer Reading Club. Toss some confetti on every 10th patron as they enter the door. Laugh and have fun!!

  1. Keep a selection of hand or finger puppets in the drawer. Whip one out to greet a child or even a grown-up when they come in the door. Carry on a conversation through the puppet, thanking the person for coming, recommending a book, complaining about the weather, whatever! Laugh and have fun!
  2. Highlight a city, a country or a planet of the week. Put up a map and pictures of a city, country or planet. Have a selection of books, videos, etc. for all ages about the chosen place. Invite each patron to “take a trip” via the bookmobile to the place. This could go on for a month or more. Children could color pictures to hang about something they learned or how they would dress for the trip. Adults could bring pictures, postcards or souvenirs from “real” trips they took there. Invite patrons of all ages to write an imaginary short story about their trip to Mars or the Moon. Post the pictures and stories for all patrons to see and enjoy. Laugh and have fun!
  3. Play music! Is there a patron at your stop who plays the guitar, violin, harmonica, etc? Invite them to serenade the patrons while they browse. Do they play the tuba, trombone or trumpet? Put them outside to be the pied piper of the bookmobile and draw people in to visit. Display books about music and musicians. If you can’t round up a live performer play CDs on a boom box or the bookmobile sound system. Dance with the children and elderly ladies and gents. Laugh and have fun!
  4. Be your own parade for the day. If you are on a town route where you won’t be driving very fast, attach some long colorful cloth or plastic strips to the outside of the vehicle that will blow in the wind as you drive. Attach windsocks, balloons, and sparkly decorations that will catch the sunlight. Play Cajun music over the PA as you drive. Wave to everyone. Laugh and have fun!
  5. The patrons often consider the bookmobile staff to be just like family. So have the staff bring in family pictures to put on the bulletin boards. Parents, kids, grandchildren, sisters, brothers, etc. Label who they belong to so patrons can meet your real family; we talk about them all the time, now the patrons can see them! Laugh and have fun!
  6. Host a staff baby picture contest. Have the staff bring in their own baby pictures. Put a number by each one and give patrons a numbered paper to write who they think each picture is. Have a simple prize for the patron that gets the most right. If you only have a few people on staff, have them bring in several pictures of themselves at different ages so the patron still gets to vote on six or eight pictures. Laugh and have fun!
  7. At Easter transform the bookmobile into a bunnymobile, Halloween, transform into the Booooomobile, 4th of July the flag mobile. You get the idea, decorate with lots of bunny pictures, stuffed animals, ghosts and bats, and flags. You can do it for any holiday. Laugh and have fun!
  8. Stop for five minutes when you have several children on board, grab a short story picture book off the shelf, sit on the floor with the kids and read to them. Look at the pictures with them. The returned books can be checked in later, seize the moment to laugh and have fun!
  9. Okay, I lied just a bit. I was going to do ten ideas, but then I decided I should leave one blank for you to fill in for yourself. Most of these ideas take very little preparation time. All you need to do is stop your regular routine for just a little while and use your imagination.

The goal is to spice up your life and the patron’s life for just a few minutes. Life is short . . . let go. . .  Laugh and have fun!

I would love to hear about any creative ideas you come up with! You can reach me, as always, at jmeadows@ppld.org. Happy Spring!

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2Dec/05Off

Money for Bookmobile Services: A Creative Grant Story

By Jan Meadows, bookmobile supervisor, Pikes Peak (Colo.) Library District.

Are you looking for a creative way to get grant money for your bookmobile service? Then you have come to the right place! This is an ecstatic day here at PPLD because we just received word that we have been awarded a $439,863 grant for our Bookmobile Service!

What’s this grant all about? Our Pikes Peak Area Council of Governments initiated a call for Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality (CMAQ) projects in February of this year. The CMAQ program is a federal transportation funding program established in 1991 as part of the Intermodal Surface Transportation Efficiency Act (ISTEA), reauthorized in 1998 by the Transportation Equity Act of the 21st Century (TEA-21) and, last month, by the Safe, Accountable, Flexible, Efficient Transportation Equity Act: A Legacy for Users (SAFETEA-LU). The purpose of the CMAQ program is to fund transportation projects and programs in non-attainment and maintenance areas which reduce transportation-related emissions and reduce congestion.

That is quite a bunch of acronyms, isn't it? In plain English it means that areas that have or have had pollution problems caused by vehicles are eligible for this grant money. The state acts as an arm of the federal government and distributes funds to the qualified areas of the state. The metropolitan area of Colorado Springs had a pollution problem that has been cleaned up, but, it is still considered a “maintenance” area for carbon monoxide, thus it is eligible for some of the money allotted to Colorado. ($5.432 million projected for the fiscal year 2007) This grant is probably of more interest to bookmobile programs in larger urban areas but check with your state DOT if you are not sure if you qualify.

The Pikes Peak Area Council of Governments saw the opportunity for a creative way to bring more “human service and resource service” organizations into the effort to clean up the air by awarding this grant to the PPLD Bookmobile Program. By bringing the Library District to the table they also fostered a tremendous spirit and example of cooperation between government agencies.

So, how did we present our case in the grant application?

  1. We cited statistics on the increased use and circulation of the bookmobiles in the past five years and noted the patron groups and communities we serve.
  2. We presented the expansion plan that the grant would enable us to implement.
  3. We then went back to our school days and worked out the “word problem” of how many carbon monoxide kilograms would be reduced per day by each bookmobile serving various communities thereby saving how many patrons from driving how many extra miles for library services. This included figuring how many “cold starts” for both patrons and the bookmobiles, the average distance traveled by patrons to reach a bookmobile in each community, average new patron trips that would be generated because of closer access offered by the bookmobile, the average distance traveled to a library branch facility if bookmobile service is not available in the patron's area, etc., etc. You get the idea, lots of math!
  4. We also covered the partnership between our PPLD Foundation and the Library District, secondary air quality impacts, peak hour benefits, the life expectancy of the vehicles purchased with the grant, how we would comply with NEPA goals and the commitment of the Library District to the project--just to name a few.

As you know if you have written grants, there was much more involved but I hope this gives you some idea of the information we needed and used. Our advisors from the PPACG told us, answer every question and include only the information requested. Be thorough but concise. We strived to adhere to that advice.

The best part about getting a grant is ... We applied for funding for a big expansion plan and in the end scaled back to basically one new bookmobile and staffing for a year in order to receive part of the total grant money available. The rest was awarded to other transportation projects, with the good news being that every agency that applied received some funds.

We are so excited to have succeeded in getting this funding since we really felt we were a long shot when applying. But you know how we bookmobilers are--nothing ventured, nothing gained, no hill for a bookmobiler, tread where no man has tread before! Yep, we forge ahead no matter what, and sometimes it pays off big time! Thankfully, PPLD has a Management Team of innovative people who encourage, support and understand the importance of equitable service, and know that bookmobiles are an effective tool for providing it. We are also lucky to have a Development Officer who goes forth and finds these wonderful opportunities and works hard to help us attain them.

I know that each of you are also always looking for ways to fund the services you want to provide, so I encourage you to look into this program and wish you the best of luck! If I can be of help with further information on this, please feel free to contact me at jmeadows@ppld.org

And now, just a couple of more things before I close.

  • ALA's 2005 Annual Conference: It seems like it was just yesterday we were all in Chicago enjoying the beautiful city and a fabulous conference. This years ALA conference was a significant one for Outreach folks!! There were numerous sessions of interest to staff in our Bookmobile/Outreach field. I want to say thanks again to all the speakers who did such a stellar job presenting at the four-pack of sessions I was involved with. (See 21st Century Bookmobile column #12) These sessions were filled to capacity and two were overflowing into the hall. We had high hopes that we were offering useful information on subjects that would appeal to Outreach staff and judging by the attendance we managed to do that. Also, thanks to everyone who attended and who sent evaluations of the sessions. All of the OLOS sessions were extremely popular and well attended. I think this popularity certainly shows that reaching out to patrons is on everyone's minds these days. I am sure ALA now knows that Outreach Programs are “must have sessions” at the annual conference!
  • ABOS/ARSL 2005 Joint Conference: Another outstanding conference was held just a few days ago (September 7 - 9) in Columbus, Ohio. The combined Association of Bookmobile and Outreach Services (ABOS) and Association of Rural and Small Libraries (ARSL) Conference was, by all reports, a stimulating experience once again. Although I was unable to attend (I was sad all week!) I am heartened to hear that ABOS is getting its feet on the ground and ready to really accomplish some great things.
  • The Appeal: We are all so indebted to John Phillip and Dr. Bernard Vavrek for getting this Association started. John, Marilyn Kaeckmeister and Bernie Garrison have served us well as officers for the past two years and I know the members appreciate all of their work and efforts. Marilyn, now our 2006 President, reported that there are many committees forming to work on: the by-laws, conferences, logo/membership cards, website, marketing, finance, and publicity. With that many committees there is an opportunity for almost everyone to get active and give back to the association that serves Outreach staff so well. So email Marilyn at m.kaeckmeister@vlc.lib.mi.us and volunteer now! Your input and expertise will help built a powerful association that can facilitate our necessary and important mission to reach out and serve the underserved and provide equitable service to all our patrons. I am going to email her right now! Please join me!!

Your partner in the bookmobile world, Jan.

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