After 49 years, an era will come to an end when the East Central Regional Library Bookmobile makes its last run on May 21st. The decision to replace library services delivered with the current bookmobile with other more cost-effective modes of service is part of the ECRL 2007-2010 Strategic Plan.
Declining use of the bookmobile, along with rising maintenance costs and an aging vehicle precipitated the decision. The current bookmobile purchased in 1996 has traveled over 350,000 miles delivering items to patrons. The bookmobile serves those individuals that are not able to use one of the Library’s 14 branches.
Current bookmobile patrons were recently sent a survey, asking for their input on how best to serve their library needs once bookmobile service has ended. Over 60 surveys were returned. The survey indicated that 50% of those visited by the bookmobile do have access to an ECRL branch and visit them on occasion. It also showed that over 50% using the bookmobile have access to a computer and the Internet. However, barriers still exist for many of our bookmobile patrons. Transportation for many, especially the elderly, remains an issue, along with access to computers and the Internet.
Members of the ECRL’s Long Range Planning Committee met and compiled the survey results and made a recommendation to the Library Board on how to best suit the needs of bookmobile patrons once service comes to an end. The Library Board approved these recommendations at their February 9 board meeting. Among the recommendations approved by the board was the promotion of existing services such as storytime kits for licensed center or family-based daycare providers, plus Bifolkal kits, long term loan checkout and institutional cards for nursing homes and assisted living facilities serving seniors.
Possible new service options among the recommendations include Library Link sites or a mail-a-book option. A library link site is a secure locally supported physical space with a small collection of library materials that would be open very limited hours. Cities or communities must apply to be a Library Link site. For people living in remote locations and who do not have options to pick up materials at a library, other delivery options will be considered.
The decision to end bookmobile service was a difficult one to make, but ECRL is striving to meet the needs of those individuals unable to access an ECRL branch by offering a variety of new and existing services. ECRL Headquarters staff is working with communities and individuals in our 6-county service area to determine the best way to provide library service when bookmobile service ends.