Friday, 9 December 2011

Library 'Meals on Wheels'

This week in class we were presenting our posters on the subject of what a library will look like in 2025.  This project was pretty interesting more in terms of trying to get 8 people with very different schedules to create and be able to discuss a finished product in a relatively short period of time at the end of term.  The key: divide and conquer.

The posters at the session had a strong central message - community.   This is probably because this is the main concept that has come out of 515.  There was a lot of interaction with posters, free food etc. etc.  For our key idea, please see Amy's post.

One interesting thing that was brought up in discussion afterwards was the idea of librarians going to people's homes to get the collection literally out and into the community.  Someone commented that this was asking for librarians to be attacked.  True, there is an issue when staff members go out into the community but this rang a bell with me.

When I was looking for volunteer opportunities at my local libraries (I did eventually volunteer in a branch and they didn't know what to do with me since they had never had a volunteer before...) I came across the homebound library services which councils in Scotland frequently run and are the library equivalent of 'Meals on Wheels'.  There are several such as in Moray, Clackmannanshire and Aberdeenshire (and yes, I picked specifically Scottish sounding ones).  I couldn't volunteer since I could't drive at the time but it sounded like a great opportunity to get out into the community, visit members who couldn't get to the library, find out what sort of books they wanted, help them with the library catalogue if they wished and deliver the services they required.  A small amount of time spent with someone in such a condition to bring them relevant and interesting material could make all the difference.

Now, I don't know if this is offered that often in America.  I have found a private company offering library facilities to the housebound but that is not the same as the council providing for those less capable of getting to their local library.  This builds on the concept of a Mobile Library or Book Mobile - again, I am not sure how popular they are here.  This article shows the Oswego Book Mobile (out of commission for 30 years) in action over summer for children to encourage them to read over their summer holidays.

Mobile libraries are pretty popular in Scotland along with mobile banks, which service people in rural communities, like my own.  It parks up at the local garden centre at its allotted time and allows those with no means of transport to carry out their financial transactions.  Perhaps this business model would not work in America where a larger proportion of people have cars.  I have just spent ages trying to find statistics (from authoritative sources, Jill) concerning the number of registered cars in Scotland and the US - not an easy task for the USA, I can tell you.  So, Scotland had 2.7 million registered vehicles last year, which is about 50% of the population while America had 254.4 million, which is almost 80% of the population.  Quite a difference.  I have also found that there is a very different mentality here towards driving.  In the UK, I am fortunate enough to have a car but barely used it day-to-day since I cycled everywhere - our cities are much easier to get round on foot or bike and the public transport between cities is excellent (don't start me on our 10 hour journey from New York to Syracuse a few weeks ago) so the need to drive is not as great.

So, I thought that I would bring your attention to these few library outreach activities that I know to be popular in Scotland and if there are similar ones in America then please let me know!


  1. Erin, Cambridgeshire, and most likely other English authorities run a Doorstep service where CRB vetted volunteers deliver reading material or casettes/CDs to people who are unable to carry books from libraries or mobile vans to their homes. (Large print books are especially heavy). More information here
    At a recent Friends event there was some discussion as to whether the library service could make ebook readers available on loan so that a wider range of material could be made available for people who need to enlarge print to read.
    I visit 5 people and find the discussion of material read or required fascinating.

  2. Thanks for your comment, Suzan. It is great to know that these things are successful - they must make such a difference to those who can't make it the library on their own.