Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Bookmobiles: the food trucks of libraries

Living in Los Angeles means a couple of things, lots of traffic, lots of warm weather and cute outfits, and lots of food trucks.  The idea behind food trucks seems to be revolutionary, or at least a fun twist on the old idea of food vendor carts or the infamous roach coach.  But libraries have been using the idea behind food trucks for almost as long as public libraries have been around in the United States.

Bookmobiles, as library "food trucks" are commonly referred to, are used to bring books and resources to areas in communities that either don't have a public library building, or are in remote rural locations.  One of the earliest bookmobiles in the United States was in South Carolina called the Free People's Library that used a mule-drawn carriage to serve rural areas starting in 1904.  Today bookmobiles continue to innovate as people are starting to see the value in these roving libraries not just as giant book carts, but as garden centers, art hubs, storytelling experiences, and WiFi hotpots.

Courtesy of my bf other Kelly via somewhere on tumblr

While bookmobile services are used most often for senior citizens, people with disabilities, and those living in poverty, I think that the future of book mobiles will be as an integral part of establishing and growing stronger communities.  There are many urban and suburban areas that have libraries and other community amenities within driving distance, but not within walking distance.  Bookmobile routes that stop at parks, public transit locations, malls, parking lots, and other under-used spaces could be a really fun and convenient way to use the library.

Taking this idea a step further, bookmobiles could be used for special collections within libraries in order to bring these resources and ideas to more people.  Music, art, and science specific bookmobiles such as those at the San Francisco Public Library could be tracked much like food trucks, and used as spaces for creativity and learning.  Look for libraries to start rolling out apps to follow bookmobiles, along with more specified types of trucks.  Even Pinterest has a pinboard dedicated to bookmobiles, and it's a lot more inspiring then ThinSpo (gross, but if you're into that think of bookmobiles as no calorie food trucks).