Reference librarians reach out: low tech this time

Books on bikes

Seattle librarian Jared Mills backs his custom-made “Books on Bikes” trailer into its spot at a farmers market.

I wish I had read about this before I wrote last week’s post. Except for walking around the library, all of the means of outreach I wrote about entailed the use of computer technology and electronic communication. Who would have thought of a bicycle? 

Someone at the Seattle Public Library did. For the past summer it has operated a pilot program called Books on Bikes. A team of 11 library staffers attach a specially designed trailer to a bicycle. They ride with the trailer from the library to various outdoor activities around the center.

The trailer holds about a hundred books, a bright orange display rack, a poster stand, an umbrella, and an iPad. I guess this outreach uses high tech after all.
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Books on Bikes

Farmers market visitors browse the offerings of Seattle Public Library’s “Books on Bikes” program.

The librarian sets up a display at a farmers market or other activity, and people come.

They want to read a book and have no library card? No problem. The librarian can sign them up using the iPad.

The iPad also has all the resources the librarian needs to answer reference questions or demonstrate how to download the library’s electronic resources to the patron’s e-reader or other device.

In a way, “Books on Bikes” does what bookmobiles have done for decades. It just uses the librarians’ muscles instead of gasoline or diesel fuel to move the books and other equipment over Seattle’s hilly terrain.

Because the display is so much smaller than the typical bus or van, it can also be set up where a bookmobile would ever fit.

The last stop for “Books on Bikes” this year will be September 15. Since it’s a pilot program, it will probably take some time after that to decide whether to do it again next year.

Maybe the Seattle Public Library will decide not to continue the program. Or maybe it will be repeated and some other library system will devise their own “Books on Bikes.”

Either way, it shows how determined librarians are to put themselves and their services in the public eye. And how imaginative.
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Our Books on Bikes program brings library resources to you / Seattle Public Library
Books On Bikes’ Helps Seattle Librarians Pedal To The Masses / Gabriel Spitzer (KPLU-FM, NPR News)
Photo credits: Gabriel Spitzer, NPR News
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