Once every 3 months, the Mission Valley Library hosts a Sensory Storytime. During this event, the library allows parents and their children with sensory sensitivities to enter the library 2 hours before we open to the public for the day. Because of this, parents and their children can enjoy story times and browsing the library without the noise and crowds of full library. Parents and children who are regulars at this program have provided positive feedback and love the comfortable and worry-free environment we provide for these families. Comments such as “My child can be themselves during this program without me having to worry about other library users judging them” and “if my child is feeling overwhelmed, he enjoys using the “take a break” room to relax and read a book while using the noise cancelling headphones provided by the library” are often said to library staff and it makes us truly understand that we are providing an important service to parents and their children with sensory sensitivities.
However, we’ve also received comments such as “I love this program, I wish it were provided more often. My child loves the library but doesn’t feel comfortable coming in when it is crowded”. Comments like this have made me realize that other than the one program we offer every three months, our library isn’t really friendly toward children, teens or adults with sensory disabilities. Because of this, I’m proposing that the San Diego Public Library offer a mobile library program. Twice a month, we will offer a by reservation mobile library, which means users can call and have the mobile library come out to their neighborhood for up to two hours. The mobile library will offer books that can be checked out as well as technology such as laptops, hot spots, calculators etc. Offering a mobile library program would help not only children, teens and adults with sensory sensitivities but those with physical disabilities as well who man be unable to make their way to the public library on their own. With a mobile library, the library comes to the user.
Goals/Objectives of a mobile library
- Provide easier access to library services and materials to underserved communities
- Promote the benefits of the local library to a broader audience
- Provide library services and materials to potential library users living in rural areas
- Promote inclusivity in the community
- Be an available resource to students whose school library may be closed due to the 2020 Pandemic
Description of Community You Wish to Engage
With the mobile library I hope to really engage with members of the community who may feel like they are “unseen” by library staff. This includes people in underserved communities such as low-income communities, or people who are experiencing homelessness as well as people who may be physically unable to venture to their libraries. I recently took part in the Back In Circulation web conference and Tamara Jones who is part of the Enoch Free Library System mentioned that people who fall under these categories often feel like they aren’t important in their communities, and I want to make these members of the community feel like they are an important part of their community and deserve to use the library too.
Benefits of a mobile library
The benefits of offering a mobile library include: providing a library for users in rural areas who may live far from a library, providing library services and technology access to underserved communities such as low income and homeless communities, advertising the benefits of the libraries to people who perhaps did not know their library offered specific programs perhaps by parking the mobile library at a local festival, According to Gavin Woltjer mobile libraries are able to supplement limited school library collections by bringing the public library collection to the school which especially benefits more rural schools, and a mobile library promotes inclusivity in a community as mentioned by Woltjer in his blog post “The Relevance of Bookmobiles and Mobile Libraries n 2018”.
Action Brief Statement
Convince library staff and administrators that by offering a mobile library service through the San Diego Public Library they will provide a level of inclusivity to library users who may feel unseen or left out along with extending the reach of our services to beyond the community surrounding the physical library which will increase community morale and would provide awareness of library services to people unaware of what their local library offers because we would bring the library to communities that don’t have a library nearby as well as bring the library to users who may have difficulty getting to the library on their own.
Evidence and Resources to support Technology or Service
Webinar: Customer Service for Underserved Populations presented by Tamara Jones of the Enoch Free Public Library: https://2020backincirculationagain.sched.com/ (webinar only available to paid attendees of conference)
Blog Post: The Relevance of Bookmobiles and Mobile Libraries in 2018: http://publiclibrariesonline.org/2018/07/the-relevance-of-bookmobiles-and-mobile-libraries-in-2018/
News Story: Student Teacher Creates Library on Wheels: https://www.wnem.com/student-teacher-creates-library-on-wheels/video_aeaa3059-1815-510b-b39b-ce018c020868.html
Blog Post: Mobile Libraries- More Than Brick and Mortar: https://princh.com/mobile-libraries-more-than-brick-and-mortar/#.X5MWkxKSlPY
Article: For The Love of Books: Mobile Libraries Around The World: https://www.aljazeera.com/features/2018/04/23/for-the-love-of-books-mobile-libraries-around-the-world/?gb=true
Mission, Guidelines, and Policy related to Technology or Service
Because the mobile library service is an extension of the San Diego Public Library the mission of the mobile library will be the same as SDPL’s mission statement as well as our vision and goals. The policies of the mobile library will remain similar to our physical libraries meaning our mobile libraries must be welcoming to people of different backgrounds and the customer service provided at the mobile library will be excellent and efficient just like the service provided in the physical library. Depending on how the mobile library is funded (be it directly through the San Diego Public Library or if we are sponsored by a 3rd party entity) will affect our staffing policy. If our mobile library is partnered with a third party entity, that third party may be in charge of the hiring process, however the interview procedures are expected to be in line with SDPL’s interview procedures and what we look for in library staff. Because the mobile library will likely be in the form of a large vehicle such as a bus or truck, the driver of the mobile library must have a valid qualifying driver’s license and an outstanding driver’s record. Unlike our physical libraries, a security guard will not be present on the mobile library, instead staff are expected to reach out to the police department’s task force assigned to assist in safety matters for the public library. Overtime, if we feel a security guard is beneficial to the mobile library one will be assigned to the mobile library. Volunteers hired to work on the mobile library will be hired and screened the same way volunteers at our physical libraries are, if a volunteer wishes to work on any children’s program or activity a background check is required.
The library director and branch managers of level 4 libraries will be in charge of setting these policies and developing our guidelines for use further. For assistance it is recommended we research and reach out to other library systems that have created and are utilizing a mobile library service.
Funds from Friends Of The Library books sales will be part of the funding for our mobile library program. In addition to this outlet of funding, we will be asking for donations for the book mobile from the community. Donors will have their names painted on the side of the mobile library as a thank you for helping our mobile service become a reality. If more funding is needed, the library may need to analyze usage stats on subscription services (certain magazines as an example) to see if we may be able to cancel any and redirect those funds into the mobile library. We will also do scouting to see if anyone in the community has vehicle they are willing to either donate to the library or sell at a discount to the library as a tax write off. At the beginning, paid staff will train volunteers to work on the mobile library, once training is complete, there will be one two staff and up to 2 volunteers working the mobile library.
Action Steps & Timeline
The Central Branch of SDPL will pilot the mobile library and depending on the success we can incorporate a few more branches to have a mobile library as well in order to cover more of the county. We are hoping to get the pilot program running in 3 months and run the pilot for 6 months and if it is successful, we would like to have another mobile library within 1 year starting from the end of our pilot period. The pilot will likely utilize bicycle libraries and utilize SDPL vans that are currently not being used. Bikes will likely cover a 3-mile radius from the library and vans will cover a 20 mile radius to start. Before the pilot a survey was given to Central Library users as well as users at all branches about our pilot to determine interest in the mobile library as well as explain how the service works. This mobile library will be a by appointment service, you can call the library and request the library be in your area at a certain time.
- Mobile Library pitch is given to and approved by the branch manager of the Central Library. This approval process should take no more than 2 weeks.
- Once approved, we reach out to staff and volunteers of the Central Branch library and other branches to see if anyone would like to work on the pilot mobile library program. We will advise that some may need to ride a bike while carting a small wagon of books and others will need to drive up to 20 miles in the vans. Bicycles will come from staff as well as a couple of new ones to be purchased by the Central Library. The process of getting interested staff and volunteers to work on the mobile library program should take no more than 1 week
- Once interested staff and volunteers are picked an interview process will occur to see which library staff and volunteers are the best fit for this mobile library pilot. Interviews and hiring should take no more than 1 month.
- Once volunteers and staffed are hired for the pilot we will advertise our pilot via social media and physical flyers as well as email blasts to our library users. We will also begin to train library staff and volunteers to run the mobile library. This process will take no more than 1 month.
- We begin taking reservations for the mobile library and begin making mobile library runs. We will take usage stats of the mobile library as well as ask for feedback from library users to see if this is something they would like to see more of. This is the official pilot stage which we will monitor for 6 months and evaluate results.
- After the pilot, we present usage stats to the library director along with funding ideas. If approved, the director will decide which branch will next launch a mobile library. This decision will be based off of survey results given prior to the pilot. The branch selected will do a pilot stage at their library as well similar to what the Central Branch completed. In this scenario the pilot branch at the Central Library was successful, no funding will begin for a proper mobile library vehicle for the Central Branch which we hope to have funded within a year.
- If the director does not approve of a proper mobile library based off of our evaluation, we will continue to offer the small mobile option in the meantime with bicycles and revisit the idea in another 6 months with the director to provide more data.
Staffing Considerations for this Technology or Service
Currently the SDPL has excess staff and some smaller libraries are overstaffed, yet we have the hours just not the space. If fully approved, the mobile libraries would be staffed by employees of the current over staffed branches and their volunteers as well. The mobile libraries will have 2 staff people working on the vehicle along with 1-2 volunteers. As the program continues overtime and more mobile libraries are developed, we may need to adjust some physical library branches in order to provide more service hours for the mobile library if the program is popular. Many of our branches are open until 8pm each day, but users hardly venture into their branches beyond 6pm. I would propose to have these libraries close at 6pm instead of 8pm so that the remaining hours can be used to run the mobile library.
Training for this Technology or Service
We will have 2 staff members act as trainers for new mobile library staff and volunteers. These trainers will be selected from our initial pilot run. Any staff person or volunteer can be trained to work on the mobile library, this will allow us to pull from branches as needed if there are call outs from the employees or volunteers assigned to be part of the mobile library on that specific work day. During the beginning stages of our program while some of our libraries are still open until 8pm. We can offer 2 hour training sessions 4 days week from 6pm-8pm. We can close some branches to the public starting at 6pm and the remaining two hours be for mobile library training. Eventually, we can assign some branches to be training hubs who offer mobile library training during specific days and hours of the week. We would require a minimum of 5 people to sign up in order to host a training.
Promotion & Marketing for this Technology or Service
We would promote the mobile library with of course a banner on our website, flyers in all of our branch libraries along with a few email blasts to users in the early months. However, another form of advertisement I would like to do is through Instagram. I would like to create an SDPL Mobile Library Instagram page and have staff members of the mobile library take quirk fun photos and videos of their time engaging with users on the mobile library and then post to the account with tasteful hashtags. These videos and photos will also simultaneously be posted onto a Facebook page for the Mobile Library and library branches are encouraged to share these postings onto their individual Facebook pages in order to get more of a following for the mobile library. We would also attempt to reserve a few hours to park the mobile library at San Diego Comic Con where we would of course offer the Comic Con Exclusive Library Card to people who sign up for an SDPL Library Card.
We will offer quarterly surveys for the Mobile Library Service as well as offer an idea box or idea wall on each mobile library for users to provide us with suggestions on how to improve our mobile library. We will also count how many requests we get monthly for the mobile library service and what areas we get the most frequent requests in. We would also keep track of how many Facebook and Instagram followers and commenters we have on the mobile library IG and FB page.
I imagine with success of the mobile library I’d love to be able to share stories of how we helped low income schools with smaller libraries gain access to more materials for their students or how we have helped library users with mobile disabilities gain access to their public library by bringing the library to them. A log of libraries offer rotating art exhibits in the libraries, and this is something I would eventually like to offer with the mobile libraries as well. We would have mobile art exhibits available so users can call and request the art exhibit to come to their area so that their community can enjoy a small day at the museum without leaving their neighborhood. When I attended the virtual Back In Circulation Again conference I viewed a webinar called Customer Service for Underserved Populations presented by Tamara Johnson of the Entoch Free Library. Tamara mentioned that a lot of people that are part of underserved communities such as low income communities or homeless communities feel left out when they don’t have access to things like fine exhibits. By offering a mobile art exhibit we could reach those communities who may feel they lack access to art exhibits making them an included part of the community.