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


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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