Diversity & Outreach Columns ALA's Office for Diversity, Literacy and Outreach Services

2Sep/03Off

Preview of Great American Bookmobile and Outreach Conference

By Jan Meadows, Bookmobile Supervisor, Pikes Peak Library District.

Is it just me or does it seem to you that the earth is spinning twice as fast on it’s axis now days?! Here it is well into September and the Great American Bookmobile and Outreach Conference is just around the corner. Didn’t we just get home from Toronto?!

I hope everyone has already registered for the conference. We have so much to talk about there! What’s big on everyone’s mind? Well, by the messages on the bookmobile discussion list it is reliable satellite service, how to calculate the cost of bookmobile service, what to do once your new bookmobile has arrived, what other ways can we provide outreach service, and how is the new Association of Bookmobile and Outreach Services going to work. That is quite a chunk to cover in three days along with all the great sessions that have been formally scheduled. We will be busy!

Here are my thoughts/opinions on a few of these subjects.

Online via satellite: In the 16 + years I have been in the bookmo biz I feel like I have been on a merry-go-round as far as being online is concerned. Here at my library the bookmobiles had Radio Shack microcomputers when I first started. They just recorded charges and returns and provided no other information to the staff or the patron. The bookmobile was referred to as the “black hole” by the rest of the library staff in those days because often the micros lost all the information before we had a chance to upload it.

Then we went to DataRadio. After about a year and a half of the vendor and the IT staff working on it constantly, it worked fairly well, putting us online for text only circulation programs. That is if we managed to park in the magic spot and a flock of birds didn’t fly by!

Then about 8 or 9 years later along came CDPD, plus PPLD also changed to a windows environment with SIRSI. After about a year and a half of the IT staff working with it, it too, worked fairly well at our city stops and we had graphics and an Internet connection. We are still using CDPD on the city bookmobile with the only draw back being we can’t stay on the Internet too long or the Workflows circulation program “freaks out” and we have to reload it.

Ah, and then came satellite for our county bookmobile because CDPD did not work at all of our county stops. Can you guess what the story is�. yep, it has been 11 months now and the vendor and our IT staff are still trying to get it to work consistently. Or at least have a consistent pattern of not working! But having been down this road twice before I remain optimistic that this too shall pass and it will eventually work. Hopefully I will learn something helpful at the “Satellite Update” session at the conference.

So, my opinion on new technology . IT IS ALWAYS PAINFUL! But, after you find the bugs and get them worked out, each new technology works better than the previous one. And when you look back over the last 20 years, we have come a LONG way!

What other ways can we provide Outreach Service? I am sure we have many creative people out there in libraries providing really unique service to their hard to reach patrons. But we never hear about these services, so I am hoping that you will seek me out at the conference and tell me about yours. I firmly believe that you need to “toot your own horn”. I am involved in a project at OLOS that you will soon be hearing about and I need your input on Outreach Services. Tell me about your books-by-mail, deposit collections, homebound delivery, service to homeless shelters, safe houses, prisons, etc. and of course, bookmobiles. I imagine that there are other ways of taking library service outside the library walls that I haven’t heard of, so please, inform me! Outreach service people are by nature dedicated and hard working because that is what it takes to do the job. So let’s hear from you!! If you won’t be at the conference please email, write, or call me! (Contact info at the bottom of this column.) My opinion on this subject: We need to share our successes and failures with each other and let the rest of the library world know what we do “out there” and how important it is.

How do you calculate the cost of running a Bookmobile or Outreach Service? My opinion is that we need a session at the Great American Bookmobile Conference or ALA or PLA that will tell us exactly how to do that! It is the perception of many library directors that it is more expensive to do bookmobile service than it is to run a branch. Yet many people will tell you they have seen or done studies that indicate it is not. But no one seems to have the actual study at hand. Many are not sure what to include in calculating their own figures. A “how to” session followed by people submitting their studies for viewing through OLOS, The Bookmobile and Outreach Association or even on a listserv would be very beneficial to everyone in the Outreach/Bookmobile field. Especially if everyone would use the same formula including all of the same costs so that comparisons could be made. These studies could be the “ammunition” people need to keep their service alive.

Okay, that’s enough of my opinions but I sure would like to hear your opinions on these subjects or any others dealing with the Bookmobile and Outreach field. We want this column to be about what interests or concerns you and will help you in the performance of your job.

I am looking forward to the Organizational Meeting of the Association of Bookmobiles and Outreach Services. How exciting to be there for the beginning of what I am sure will be a very successful and productive organization!

I hope I will be seeing and talking to you soon in Columbus, OH! If not, remember that I still want to hear from you at jmeadows@ppld.org; Or via mail, phone or fax: Jan Meadows, Bookmobile Supervisor, Pikes Peak Library District, P. O. Box 1579, Colorado Springs, CO 80917-1579; Phone (719) 531-6333, ext. 2312; FAX (719) 389-8990

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