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


Get the most out of ALA’s National Bookmobile Day resources

By John L. Amundsen, ALA Office for Literacy and Outreach Services

As many of you are making your preparations for National Bookmobile Day, we’d like to share with you some ways that you can make the most out of the free National Bookmobile Day resources available at www.ala.org/bookmobiles. This post is the first of a series that covers the range of free materials, including publicity templates, marketing materials, and print public service announcements.

This week, I’d like to highlight the downloadable publicity materials, including the press release, Op-Ed, and proclamation templates.  All three documents are ready-made, meaning all you need to do is to add information about designated contact, library name, quote from local dignitary/library representative/etc., and any additional information you wish to include.

Before you move forward, you should ask yourself these questions:

  • Does your library have a PR department or designated publicity staffer?
  • Does your library have an established procedure for approving news items?
  • Do you have a designated spokesperson who can answer questions about the event, the bookmobile, and the library?
  • What local media outlets do you want to target?

Once you’ve answered these questions, you can move forward and develop an outreach plan which will outline deadlines and tactics.

Press Release Template – A press release is one of the basic tools you can use to reach out to local media and communicate news from your library. Once completed, the National Bookmobile Day release template is ready to be disseminated to local media outlets as news items.

In the event that your library system already has a PR department or designated publicity staffer, you can submit your release with them and take advantage of any pre-existing relationships that the department or staffer already has with the local media.  Be sure that the department or staffer and spokesperson have talking points and information about the event – which can be downloaded at www.ala.org/bookmobiles.

If your library lacks a PR department or designated staffer, you can do a quick scan of what outlets are there in your community.  Once you’ve identified your local news outlets, look up the contact information for either the city or news desks and call the editor(s) and call them, introducing yourself as a representative of the library, apprising them of your library, your bookmobile, and the upcoming National Bookmobile Day festivities in your town.  Building such relationships with local media can prove to be very valuable down the road.

Op-ed Template - An op-ed, shorthand for ‘opposite the editorial page,’ is a newspaper article that expresses the opinions of a named writer who is usually unaffiliated with the newspaper's editorial board. We’ve prepared a National Bookmobile Day Op-ed template for libraries to submit on behalf of a library or community leader that speaks to the occasion. Much like the press release template, the Op-ed template only needs designated contact information, an author to attribute it to, and any other information that you wish to include.

The procedures for placing an op-ed vary from outlet to outlet; you can either consult with your PR department or staffer if you have one, or contact the outlet directly – either through the city or news desk – and ask for information  on submitting an op-ed article.

Proclamation Template - Want to make your National Bookmobile Day celebrations truly official? Consider approaching your local government officials and request that they proclaim National Bookmobile Day! We’ve developed a proclamation template which is ready to download at www.ala.org/bookmboiles.

Additional Publicity Resources

Advocacy University


Advocacy Clearinghouse – Media & Messaging


Library Advocate’s Handbook


ALA Communications Handbook for Libraries


Share your Story!

Be sure to share your National Bookmobile Day stories, including programming ideas, media placements, and anything else of interest – either on the ABOS list, through the National Bookmobile Day Facebook fan page, Twitter (@bookmobileday, hashtag: #NBD2012), and the National Bookmobile Day Wiki on www.ala.org/bookmobiles.


Questions? Comments? Concerns?  For assistance, please contact the ALA Office for Literacy and Outreach Services at 1-800-545-2433, ext. 4294 between 9:00am and 5:00pm Central Time, or email olos@ala.org.

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Eubanks, Smith featured speakers at Bookmobile Sunday

Authors W. Ralph Eubanks and Andrew Smith will be the featured presenters at Bookmobile Sunday during the American Library Association’s (ALA) Annual Conference in Washington, D.C.  

W. Ralph Eubanks is the author of “Ever is a Long Time: A Journey into Mississippi’s Dark Past” and “The House at the End of the Road: The Story of Three Generations of an Interracial Family in the American South.” In addition to his books, Eubanks has contributed articles and reviews to The Washington Post, the Chicago Tribune, Preservation, The American Scholar and National Public Radio. He is a recipient of a 2007 Guggenheim Fellowship and has been a fellow at the New America Foundation.
Andrew Smith is a Young Adult author whose works include “Ghost Medicine,” his 2008 debut work, and “In the Path of Falling Objects,” both chosen as ALA/YALSA Best Books for Young Adults, in 2009 and 2010 respectively. His latest book, “The Marbury Lens,” is published by Feiwel and Friends. In addition to his writing career, Smith also teaches high school and coaches rugby. Smith’s appearance is made possible thanks to generous support from Macmillan.
Themed “Bookmobiles: Delivering Outstanding Library Services,” this year’s Bookmobile Sunday will be held from 10:30 to 1:30 p.m. on Sunday, June 27 in Room 207A/B of the Washington Convention Center. The program offers moderated discussions on advocacy, eco-friendly vehicles and fuels, mobile service options, bookmobiles 101 and marketing, in addition to the featured author presentations.  An author book signing and Parade of Bookmobiles, where attendees can board and explore a comprehensive range of bookmobiles, conclude the event.
Registration is $25 at the door and includes lunch. For more information, please visit www.ala.org/annual.
Held during ALA’s Annual Conferences since 2005, Bookmobile Sunday is sponsored by All-American Specialty Vehicles, Matthews Specialty Vehicles, Meridian Specialty Vehicles, OBS, Inc., and Farber, Inc. The event is organized by the American Library Association’s (ALA) Office for Literacy and Outreach Services (OLOS) and the OLOS Subcommittee on Bookmobiles, in cooperation with the Association of Bookmobile and Outreach Services (ABOS). 
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Save your spot for Bookmobile Sunday – Advance Registration Deadline Approaching

Posted by John Amundsen, OLOS Communications Specialist

Interested in learning about new trends, advocacy, and best practices for mobile delivery outreach?  There’s still time to save your spot at the fifth-annual Bookmobile Sunday, held on Sunday, June 27 during ALA’s 2010 Annual Conference in Washington, D.C. The deadline to register online is May 14, 2010.

Held during ALA’s Annual Conferences since 2005, Bookmobile Sunday is organized by the American Library Association’s (ALA) Office for Literacy and Outreach Services (OLOS), the OLOS Subcommittee on Bookmobiles, and the Association of Bookmobile and Outreach Services (ABOS).

Bookmobile Sunday features a keynote by W. Ralph Eubanks, Director of Publishing at the Library of Congress; an author luncheon with Andrew Smith, author of Ghost Medicine and In the Path of Falling Objects; and moderated discussions on advocacy, eco-friendly vehicles and fuels, mobile service options, Bookmobiles 101, and Marketing.  An author book signing and Parade of Bookmobiles, where attendees can board and explore a comprehensive range of bookmobiles, conclude the event. The event will be held in the Washington Convention Center, in room 207 A/B.

Registration, both online and on-site, is $25 and includes lunch.  Advance registration is strongly recommended.

For more information about Bookmobile Sunday, and to register, please visit www.ala.org/annual. 



Videomaking Tips for Libraries

Submitted by John J. Roe, Bookmobile Staff Member Bookmobile and Outreach Services Department Montgomery County-Norristown Public Library

“Show, don’t tell” is advice from which any writer can profit, and in the age of digital video and YouTube, that advice can be applied to showing off your library’s programs with ease. With the right software, you can add polish to your productions with minimal impact to your library’s budget.

The following highlights, from start to finish, the lessons we learned while making our first YouTube video, which featured our children’s bookmobile program.

Step One: You’ll Feel a Slight Pinch...

There is one unavoidable expense when it comes to making amateur video: Barring a grant or a gift, you have to buy the camera. The Flip Ultra Camcorder, a popular choice that features a USB port for direct connection to a computer, a tripod mount point, and its own onboard video editing software, has a listed price of about US$149.00. For our own YouTube project, we went with its cousin, the Flip UltraHD, which records in high-resolution format and retails at about US$199.00.

Most modern cell phones also record video, and the frugally-minded might find that to be a “two birds with one stone” solution. Be advised that you might also need to buy a special cable in order to transfer your video files from your phone to your computer in order to work with them. They usually also require that extra memory be purchased in order to match the storage capacity of comparably-priced camcorders. Picture quality in jack-of-all-trades phones tends to suffer in comparison to the specialized camcorders as well, but again, the phone is considered something of a compromise solution.

If you’re having trouble deciding which camera is the one for you, Consumer Reports has a full breakdown of camcorder features on its website, http://consumerreports.org, though they require you to subscribe for product ratings. Of course, you could always take a mosey on down to your Periodicals section...

Another sound investment is a tripod. This will keep the camera steady and avoid unnecessary movements (and thus a seasick viewer) that come with holding the device in your hand. If there’s one thing the experience of making our first video has taught me, it’s this: No matter how steadily you think you’re holding the camera in your hand, the slightest motion will be seen onscreen. If you went the cell phone route, there are in fact tripod mounts available for them as well, and Lifehacker has posted a do-it-yourself mounting solution on their website (see Addendum).

So that’s the hardware acquired. Now on to the fun part...

Step Two: I’m Ready for My Close-Up, Mister DeMille.

Before we start rolling, a few words about the law: While an argument can be made for not needing permission to film someone in a public place where he or she would have no reasonable expectation of privacy, nothing keeps your proverbial bacon out of the fire quite like a signed release form. A stack of these forms, a pen, and a clipboard can go a long way toward helping you avoid potential hassles when you go out on your “shoots.”

Permission to film is especially important to bear in mind when it comes to filming minors, who must have a parent or guardian sign for them. When we made our video, which required visits to a couple of the preschools taking part in the Books-Go-Round program, we relied upon that old stand-by, the parental permission slip.

When it comes to filming, it pays to follow another old adage: “It’s better to have and not need, than to need and not have.” Whether following your bookmobile around on its day, or recording a book talk in the common room, the luxury of having a variety of shots from which to pick and choose will be a great asset. A later viewing of what you’ve shot will often suggest new ways to present your point.

Or to put it another way: YouTube videos have a maximum length of about ten minutes. A Flip has the storage capacity for about two hours of footage. Don’t be afraid to shoot more than you need to fill that ten minutes.

Speaking of that ten minutes, it’s time to pick and choose...

Step Three: The Cutting Room Floor

When it comes to no-cost video editing software, there is a wide range of possibilities. Microsoft Movie Maker comes free with Windows Vista and later operating systems. The same goes with Apple’s iMovie, which is bundled with the free iLife suite of applications for the Macintosh. As mentioned before, the Flip comes with its own simple editing software (FlipShare) that can be installed to any PC. On the open source front, there are applications such as VirtualDub (available for Windows) and Kino (an application for the Linux operating system). Each has their own particular advantages and disadvantages, and the prospective videographer is encouraged to try a wide variety of software to see what makes for the best fit for your taste.

There is one software combination that I would like to recommend, regardless of your final choice for your main editor, and that’s the effective one-two punch of Avidemux and Audacity. Early on in the production of our debut YouTube video, it was decided that we would include voiceovers and background music, both of which were incorporated thanks to the applied combination of these two programs.

Avidemux is a video processing application. While it is capable of editing video, that is not where the program’s strong points lie. Where Avidemux shines is in its ability to copy out the audio track of a video and then mix it back in from a file, saving the results in a variety of formats.

Once you’ve pulled the audio track, that’s where the sound editor Audacity comes in. With it, you can add music tracks and dub in dialogue. Audacity also has a number of built-in features, such as the ability to remove the hiss of a microphone via audio sampling. Another feature is the ability to “split cut” or “split delete,” both of which insert blank space into where portions of a track have been removed, preserving synchronization with the video.

Of course, whenever you add music or splice other footage into your production, always be mindful of proper copyright protocol. Your slick new video won’t seem like such a feather in your cap if it brings a letter from Time Warner's legal department to your director’s “in" box.

After the final audio file is created, it can be mixed back into Avidemux to create your production.

Step Four: Show the World What You’ve Got

You’re done and ready to show off your video to the world, which in this day and age means you’re ready to upload it to YouTube. As of this writing the service is still free and there’s little I can say to illuminate the process, as YouTube guides you through it quite effectively themselves.

That said, the only thing that I can add is that the video isn’t immediately available to the whole wide world upon upload. YouTube needs a certain amount of time to “process” a video, so your best bet would be to give it about a day before sending out links.

But after that, you're done! Go ahead and send links far and wide to show off your new video!

We had a lot of fun making ours, but more importantly, we felt we had found a tool that would let us continue to promote the importance of our Outreach and Bookmobile services through today's relevant media.

Happy film making!

Addendum: I’d Like to Thank the Academy...

Some additional resources:

Avidemux - available at http://avidemux.sourceforge.net

Audacity - available at http://audacity.sourceforge.net VirtualDub - available at http://www.virtualdub.org

Lifehacker’s Do-It-Yourself Cameraphone Tripod Mount - http://lifehacker.com/5346020/diy-cameraphone-tripod-mount

Sample video/photo release form, courtesy of the American Library Association - http://www.ala.org/ala/mgrps/divs/aasl/aaslissues/Video-Photo_release_form2.pdf.

Our video, “Getting Started: A Children’s Travelling Library and the Love of Books” - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6o3OQjbLIzk

YouTube’s own YouTube channel, including the useful and often entertaining “YouTube 101“ series - http://www.youtube.com/user/YouTube

Dan-O, a talented musician who makes his work publicly available through a Creative Commons license and provider of our video’s background music - http://danosongs.com

The Internet Archive Moving Images Archive, an excellent source for stock footage and public domain movies - http://www.archive.org/details/movies

130 Projects to Get You Into Film Making by Elliot Grove,2009, Quarto Publishing - A title I wish I’d found closer to the beginning of the project rather than at the end.


We Are: One Another

Submitted by: Karen J. Maj, Librarian II, Fresno County Public Library

Community Bookmobile – Fresno, CA

*The views expressed in this posting are Karen’s views and do not reflect the views of the Fresno County or Fresno County Library.

I love bookmobile service. As librarian-driver for the Fresno County Public LibraryCommunity Bookmobile, many of the monthly bookmobile stops are visits to senior facilities which vary from nursing homes, to retirement living, to senior communities.

I got to thinking about the power of connection; how important it is for each of us and with library patrons of any age. Yet, for the moment, I would like to share with you some thoughts about serving our seniors.

There is a unique beauty in doing so. Each person: nearing a Great Change in their Life journey; so many stories of life untold. For some people, these personal changes are difficult to face while for others it is the natural course of Life.

Along with bringing library material to our patrons we also have the responsibility and the joy of offering the best, trustworthy, relaxed and honest service that we possibly can while allowing the rest to take care of itself.  Of course, I always hope patrons will check out library material and I let them know we have regular print, large print, books on CD and tape as well as other resources through our library system.

Yet, whether a patron checks out library material or not, one, they’ve made a visit to the bookmobile and two, it is the power of our Presence that is also important.

We become the senses for our patrons: taking the extra time to not just “hear” but to “listen”, making sure that we don’t just “look” but that we “see” the person we’re talking with.

This does tend to bring home the fragility of our own humanity and that of our loved ones. It is very difficult when a patron passes away; a part of me changes: a friendship in transition. A book with a title uniquely all its own, removed from the shelf, never to be replaced.

I’ve read to patrons in nursing homes and to tell you the truth, I don’t always know who’s listening, who understands, or who’s enjoying what I’ve brought to read. It was such a beautiful balmy spring day

once that a patron said “Oh! I fell asleep!” I chuckled and said “It’s that kind of day! I would too!”

Last month, a bookmobile patron invited me to have dinner with her at her retirement facility which I was pleased to accept. To my delight:  9 bookmobile patrons were at the table! I was presented with a card of thanks and a lovely pen. I am being thanked….for the work I love to do….but I couldn’t love my work without my patrons.

Today, while thinking about this article, I checked the mail and received a card from one of our bookmobile nursing home stops: a card of appreciation and thanks for all we do. How sweet to be given a gift from the heart and also when least expected!

In conclusion, there is also the rural setting and after pulling up to one of the mountain bookmobile stops, a lady called out “Oh you’re here! You didn’t forget me!” And you know? What she said really hit home for me:  Being There. It’s so much more than just being part of the schedule and bringing material to people, isn’t it?  How fortunate we are to make a difference and to give people who, whether living with friends, or, whether living alone, the opportunity for something to look forward to:

“Oh you’re here! You didn’t forget me!”

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How will your library celebrate National Bookmobile Day?

Contact: John L. Amundsen, OLOS Communications Specialist | 312.280.2140 | jamundsen@ala.org

CHICAGO – The ALA Office for Literacy and Outreach Services (OLOS) is calling all libraries participating in National Bookmobile Day to share the ways they are celebrating the event.  Participants are encouraged to share their ideas either by contributing to the National Bookmobile Day Wiki, joining in on the conversation on the NBD ALA Connect community, or by emailing their ideas and stories to nationalbookmobileday@ala.org.

 Held during National Library Week on Wednesday, April 14, 2010, the inaugural National Bookmobile Day will celebrate the contributions of our nation's bookmobiles and the dedicated professionals who make quality bookmobile outreach possible in their communities.

 To learn more about National Bookmobile Day, please visit www.ala.org/bookmobiles.

 National Bookmobile Day is sponsored by the ALA Office for Literacy and Outreach Services, the Association of Bookmobile and Outreach Service (ABOS), and the Association of Rural and Small Libraries (ARSL).


National Bookmobile Day online toolkit now available

Contact: John Amundsen, Communications Specialist | ALA Office for Literacy and Outreach Services | (312) 280-2140; jamundsen@ala.org

CHICAGO – The American Library Association (ALA) has launched a Web page with resources and tools to help libraries celebrate the inaugural National Bookmobile Day, Wednesday April 14, 2010, part of National Library Week. 

The page, www.ala.org/bookmobiles, features sample publicity materials including a press release, letter-to-the-editor, and proclamations for library staff and supporters to use in their communities. Also included on the page are downloadable National Bookmobile Day logos, bookmark templates, a customizable flyer, and links to National Bookmobile Day on social networking sites. 

In addition, the toolkit also has links to the National Bookmobile Day community in ALA Connect, where librarians can collaborate and share ideas on promoting the event. Participating libraries can share ideas and stories on how they celebrate the contribution of bookmobiles and direct-delivery outreach.

Part of National Library Week, National Bookmobile Day is a national observance sponsored by the American Library Association (ALA), the Association for Bookmobile and Outreach Services (ABOS), and the Association for Rural and Small Libraries (ARSL).

For more information on National Bookmobile Day, please contact John Amundsen, Communications Specialist, ALA Office for Literacy and Outreach Services, at (312) 280-2140, or email jamundsen@ala.org.

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The Green Green Vans of Home – Ten Ways to Make Your Bookmobile GREEN

Home in my case is England. I live in the North of England, which is where the original Pilgrims came from. I’m only an hour’s drive from Washington, Philadelphia, Boston and York (real York, that is, not a New imitation!)

The famous Jeremiah Dixon was born and trained in the area before being sent by King George with Charles Mason to the USA to settle a dispute on the boundary between Maryland and Pennsylvania.

Mason and Dixon solved the dispute by drawing a straight line between two points. This is well worth bearing in mind when setting up routes for your vehicles. The shorter the route, the less fuel burned.

  • First Green Point, economic route planning. Good route planning can save far more fuel than any mechanical or electronic device. Make routes teardrop shaped in geographically linked lines to minimize travel. Don’t zigzag back and forth across town.

Bizarrely Mason and Dixon took stones from England to the USA to mark their route. This is bad practice.

  • Second Green Point. Don’t make unnecessary journeys. Try not to go across the county for fuel or for restocking with new books and stationery. Make such halts part of your route planning.
  • Third Green Point. Don’t carry unnecessary loads. Can the children’s books be replaced by large print books when you visit old people’s residences? Do you need to carry lots of boxes of reserved books for the whole week?

Accuracy was most important for Mason and Dixon,

  • Fourth Green Point. Have the engine, chassis, brakes and tyres (tires!) accurately set up by regular servicing and daily checking. In Europe, it is a legal requirement that heavy vehicles are serviced at least every six weeks and have a full examination every year.

Even after saving as much as possible through good planning and preparation, there are still more ways you can economize.

 Time and fuel can be wasted by the driver who thinks he knows a better route or who wants to get home earlier than scheduled. This can be avoided by new technology.

  • Fifth Green Point. Fit GPRS and ‘black box’. These use satellite navigation to check vehicle route and position at all times. The ‘Black box’ indicates all speeding and all braking when downloaded at the end of the day. The driver who consistently speeds, or does harsh braking, both of which waste fuel, can be given ‘care of vehicle’ training.

Much of the fuel burned on a vehicle is not actually to move it. After all, the good mobile library (bookmobile) earns its keep when it is stopped. However when stopped the vehicle batteries are hard at work powering the heating, the air conditioning, the lift, the onboard computers etc. Give the batteries all the help you can.

  • Sixth Green Point. Keep the inside temperature steady. Use an automatic door to keep out the cold (or heat). The power used for this should be less than the power saved.
  • Seventh Green Point. Make the vehicles open to as much daylight as possible using windows and skylights. UK vehicles are often found with windows all round and shelves just go across them. Potential readers see inside the vehicle and users have natural light to help see the books clearly. Less energy is consumed in lighting the vehicle. Admittedly in the south of the USA, large windows become a positive disadvantage, as the sunshine needs keeping out to avoid overusing the air conditioning. Here you would need folding shades or awnings.

 However there is now a way to harness that sunlight.

  • Eighth Green Point. Use a solar panel.  

More and more UK mobile libraries are using solar panels to produce power. See appendix on their application in the UK.

  • Ninth Green Point use a fuel additive or product such as ‘Green’ Diesel or a green additive. (hydrogen and urine are the basis for some of these). Vegetable oil may also be used.
  • The Tenth Green Point.  The mobile library saves many journeys by readers who would all otherwise be travelling into the city to choose their books.  


1 City of Bradford: situated in North England, home of the Bronte sisters. Population 450,000,  35 miles east to west.

 Having been asked to go green by the city politicians the librarians considered solar panels: Would they be effective, if so how effective? They decided that the space on the roof between the skylights would accommodate between 6 to 8 solar panels.

On a sunny day 4 x 125 watt photo-voltaic cells would provide 25% of power used to operate the auxiliary equipment. 8 x 125 watt photo-voltaic cells would provide 50% of power used to operate auxiliary equipment. They opted for the maximum 8 at a cost of $10000.

The panels fitted snugly on the roof and cannot be seen from the road, it is easy to forget that they are there, a meter, fitted in the cupboard reminds them that they are working and the charge input is nearly always 100%. The panels trickle feed the batteries through an accumulator throughout daylight. A bright sunny day gives maximum input, power still trickles in slowly on a cloudy day, the only weather condition found to hamper the process is fog.

The auxiliary battery capacity has not been reduced by the inclusion of the solar panels.

Overnight parking is outside and they found that the solar panels could even pick up off the street lighting. Overall they are extremely happy with the Solar Panels and their next vehicle will definitely be solar powered.

At the Annual UK 2007 Mobilemeet at Port Talbot, Wales, attended by 50 vehicles, they won the two main awards, State of the Art and the Delegates’ Choice award.

2 Buckinghamshire: Situated in wooded hills 40 miles north west of London.  Population 619500, 727 sq. miles.

The library vehicle, which powers all its auxiliary equipment by solar panels in the roof, was handed ‘Delegates’ choice’ for the ‘Best overall mobile library at show’ at the 2009 annual Mobilemeet. The vehicle has 33% of its power supplied from the sun, and its electrics are fully solar powered during sunny months.

The 10 roof solar panels, each supplying 130w, have been wired in a way that they immediately become 30% more efficient. The team further reduced the vehicle’s impact on its environment using eco friendly methods and equipment throughout the vehicle; including foam insulation to reduce heat loss, low energy lighting and a heater that consumes 50% less wattage and 12% less fuel at full power than a standard one.

3 Oxfordshire: Adjacent to Buckinghamshire. Home of the famous University. Population 635,000, 600 sq. miles.

The auxiliary systems are fully integrated with 240v electricity on board. (this is the UK's main voltage) Batteries are charged in the depot overnight. Once the batteries are fully charged, power switches off automatically. Backing up the maintenance free gel auxiliary batteries are a pair of roof-mounted, ultra-thin solar panels, which will help to charge the batteries on even the dullest of days. The solar panel is translucent and is in sheet form. It is stuck down over the entire translucent fibreglass roof.

Ian Stringer

North Yorkshire, UK

Hon Information Co-ordinator IFLA

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What We Did This Summer

By Kathy Mayo, Outreach Services Manager, Lee County (FL) Library System

This summer was an interesting time for our Bookmobile service.  Our beautiful new bus was off the road for weeks on end while we were getting warranty work done.  Our dilemma was figuring out how to serve our customers without the vehicle.

In Lee County, the Bookmobile reaches families living in low income neighborhoods, housing projects, and at afterschool programs for at-risk children and teens.  We couldn’t let them down.  One of the reasons they use the Bookmobile is that they have difficulty getting to a library.  Among our customers are a large number of new immigrant families that rely on the Bookmobile for materials to help them learn English.

Our solution was to use the library van to visit all of our stops.  We filled up the back of the van with stacks of bins full of books, DVDs, and magazines.  We also squeezed in three 8’ folding tables.  On arriving at each stop, we’d set up the tables in the shadiest spot we could find or, if we were lucky, inside a building.  We spread out the bins on the tables and folks went through them to find their graphic novels, movies, and Twilight series books.

Before going to each stop, we got out the phones and called customers to alert them that we would be visiting in the white van, not the big green bus.   While we didn’t reach all of the regulars, we were able to pick up a number of new users who were curious about the garage sale look of our offerings.

What did the customers think of this arrangement?  For the most part, they were delighted that we made the effort to continue service.  We heard few complaints about the titles we brought and most everyone found items to check out.

Clearly, we are not a union shop.  This involved a lot of extra work on the part of staff.  Summer time is the rainy season in south Florida and the temperatures soared each afternoon.  We were sweaty and dirty most days and our muscles got a real work out.  In fact, we told other library staff not to complain about the summer heat in our presence.

Was it worth the extra effort?  Definitely.  We kept our customers happy and met many new families during this summer adventure.  We also have a new appreciation for good mechanics and cold drinks.

--Kathy Mayo is the Outreach Services Manager at Lee County Library System.

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Bookmobiles and the ALA

By Michael Swendrowski, President - Specialty Vehicle Services, LLC., Chairman - ALA Subcommittee on Bookmobiles

As I write this column today, I recall sitting at a head table in New Orleans waiting to present a segment at the first ever bookmobile program at ALA Annual.  Although only 20 people attended that early Sunday morning in 2006, it would prove to be the start of something good.

You see, I was one of only a handful of people on the new ALA Subcommittee on Bookmobiles, expertly assembled by Satia Marshall Orange under the Office of Literacy and Outreach Services (OLOS).  As a new group, we struggled a little at first, but were steadfastly committed to drawing well deserved attention to very important, but sometimes under recognized (and underfunded) bookmobile services nationwide.

Today, the Subcommittee has over 20 members strong and expertly represents all aspects of bookmobile services.  The Subcommittee’s content filled Mobile Services program has been coupled with a yearly Parade of Bookmobiles to anchor a now well recognized annual “Bookmobile Sunday”.  The 2009 program featured authors Sara Paretsky (www.saraparetsky.com) and Theresa Schwegel (www.theresaschwegel.com), and the 2010 Mobile Services program in Washington D.C. will feature a keynote presentation by Ralph Eubanks (http://wralpheubanks.com/), author and Director of Publishing at the Library of Congress, about how important the bookmobile was in shaping his childhood and career.  The 2009 Parade of Bookmobiles featured a record 13 vehicles and was covered by national media and film crews (http://www.ala.org/ala/aboutala/offices/olos/bookmobiles/bookmobileparade.cfm), and is sure to be even better in D.C.    I strongly encourage you to make the Sunday of each year’s conference part of your yearly bookmobile “must attends”!

In addition to Bookmobile Sunday, the Subcommittee works closely with the Association of Bookmobile and Outreach Services (ABOS), as an ALA Affiliate, on relative projects to help improve the continually viable work of “bookmobilers” nationwide.   I would like to share with you just some of these projects.

The Subcommittee submitted a proposal and was approved by the ALA Public Awareness Committee to designate Wednesday of National Library Week as National Bookmobile Day, starting on Wednesday, April 14, 2010.

Celebrating the Bookmobile during National Library Week 2010 will accomplish three key goals:

  1. Demonstrate to the profession, friends and trustees that bookmobile services are a core component of library service delivery
  2. Demonstrate to the local community that bookmobiles are vital and that use growing, making a case for continued support and funding
  3. Demonstrate through the national media that bookmobiles are modern, changing and dynamic mobile information centers for the 21st century

Initiatives within ALA around National Bookmobile Day will be coordinated by the Subcommittee on Bookmobiles of the OLOS Advisory Committee and OLOS Staff acting as liaison to the committee, in conjunction with the Public Awareness Committee’s National Library Week Committee.  Media outreach services will be provided by the Public Information Office.  The Day will be prominently featured through ILoveLibraries.org and other ALA social media for the public.

A taskforce has been assembled from members of the ALA Subcommittee on Bookmobiles, the Association of Bookmobile and Outreach Services (ABOS), and the Association of Rural and Small Libraries (ARSL) to develop downloadable toolkits to support programming, activities, professional education, advocacy and media outreach goals for National Bookmobile Day.  Please visit http://www.ala.org/ala/newspresscenter/news/pressreleases2009/april2009/olosbookmobile.cfm for more information about National Bookmobile Day, or www.ala.org/nlw to learn more about National Library Week.

The Subcommittee and ABOS are also supporting a project named “Behind the Wheel of a Bookmobile”, which was officially launched in July, 2009.  “Behind the Wheel” is a multi-media and documentary project by author and producer Tom Corwin that follows a classic bookmobile across country on back roads with acclaimed authors taking turns at the wheel.  At each stop the bookmobile’s doors will open inviting the public in to take their choice of digital and analog titles in exchange for interviews about books that have changed their lives.  The highlights of the journey will be distributed in a literacy outreach campaign through the web and culminate in a documentary film.  “Books influence our lives in ways too often untold,” says Corwin.  “Our trip is designed to tell some of those stories while our back roads route connects the project to America’s literary history.”  Visit the official website at http://www.bookmobiletravels.com for updates and learn how you can be a part of this high profile project.

The Handbook for Mobile Services Staff has been compiled and is available for download at http://www.ala.org/ala/aboutala/offices/olos/bookmobiles/bookmobilehdbk.pdf.  This document is frequently updated and is a great resource for bookmobile staff.

A “Bookmobiles Wiki” has been established at http://olos.ala.org/bookmobiles/index.php?title=Main_Page, and is a great portal for the latest news and bookmobile information.  Log in frequently learn more and maybe contribute your expertise!

Bookmobiles and direct-delivery outreach services are, and continue to be an integral, vital part of libraries around the country.  For over 100 years bookmobiles have served rural, urban, suburban and tribal areas, bringing access to information and life-long learning resources to all classes and communities.  Bookmobiles are a central part of library service, and the ALA, through its Subcommittee on Bookmobiles, is firmly committed to recognizing their contribution to public life with the goal to highlight their value and extend their reach.

--Michael Swendrowski is a 26 year veteran of the specialty vehicle industry with special love for bookmobiles.  He draws on his experience and technical knowhow to assist libraries in designing, specifying, and purchasing the perfect bookmobile for their unique needs.  Michael is an active member of the Association of Bookmobile and Outreach Services (ABOS), gives bookmobile related presentations nationwide, and currently serves as chairman of the ALA-OLOS Subcommittee on Bookmobiles.  He can be reached at  mswendrowski@vehiclesuccess.com or 262.679.9096 with questions about the ALA-OLOS Subcommittee on Bookmobiles.

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