Books on Wheels: What Moves at 100 Kilometres an Hour and is Filled with Books?

Books on Wheels: What Moves at 100 Kilometres an Hour and is Filled with Books?

Modern mobile libraries!

With the help of mobile libraries, rural and remote communities are able to enjoy the joys of reading no matter where they live.

All over Australia, people are borrowing books from mobile libraries. Currently there are 78 mobile libraries operating across Australia. These books on wheels services make significant economic, educational, social and cultural contributions to rural and remote communities.

Mobile libraries vary in size and design to suit differing needs and terrains. They range from smaller vans with a small range of titles, to state-of-the-art trucks that are well-equipped with sizeable collections, technology, Wi-Fi and climate control. These have moveable pods that increase internal floor space when the vehicle is stationary, enhancing the browsing experience. Collections are turned over regularly. Many have access for people with a disability.

Riverina Regional Library has the highest collection turnover rate of all the regions’ libraries. It has operated for nearly 40 years, is housed in a fully airconditioned semi-trailer and serves 138,500 residents across an area of 50,000 square kilometres, and its mobile library regularly visits 28 small communities in seven local government areas.

Another mobile library has serviced the City of Ipswich, visiting suburban and rural areas for over 40 years, during which time it has travelled over 400,000km, lent more than 3.5 million items and serviced over one million people. Along with a range of library books, DVDs and CDs, the Mobile Library has a children’s reading area and internet access. In 2016 the older bus was replaced with a $600,000 state-of-the-art library in a Scania truck.

Mobile libraries are nothing new. There are reports of a horse-drawn van carrying books in England in the 1850s and a similar service in the USA, but with a mule. In India, S.R. Ranganathan launched the first bookmobile in 1931. The two-wheeled cart library helped educating the rural poor.

NSW’s first public library bookmobile began service in Sydney’s northern suburbs in 1947, servicing St Ives, North Turramurra, West Pymble, East Wahroonga and East Lindfield areas. The bookmobile was converted from an RAAF mobile workshop, and stocked with 1,200 adult books and 1,200 children’s books. Nine hundred borrowers were registered and served by the bookmobile.

Now they are all over the world, ranging from services in modern vehicles to camelback book packs. In Australia, they are and will remain an essential way of reaching areas of the community that would otherwise miss out on library services and the joy of reading they bring with them.

From May 22-24 is Library and Information Week, an opportunity for libraries and library users to celebrate the invaluable contribution that libraries make to society. Click here for more information.

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