With a riding trail behind them, an extensive volunteer base beside them, and a calendar full of community events ahead, Orion Township Public Library (OTPL) in Michigan saw an opportunity to deliver services in a unique new way this spring. In May, they introduced their new pedal-powered mobile library—a Bookbike!
Sparked by hearing about other libraries that used Bookbikes for their outreach efforts, Executive Director Karen Knox and Beth Sheridan, Head of Adult Services set out to determine how they could get a Bookbike ready to roll.
“It wasn’t in the budget,” said Sheridan. “So we began by trying to raise the money through fundraising, proposals, and grants. We received several online donations to start. Then a generous donor came forward to provide the rest.”
After researching many options, they chose Icicle Tricycles, a commercial cargo bike builder out of Portland, OR, to create and customize the bike. In April, the 7-speed trike arrived fully constructed and equipped with a book box, reinforced folding frame, and umbrella holsters. Library staff added interior shelves to hold up to 60 books and library information and resources.
Through a handful of community appearances, the Bookbike has already gained good traction. A staff member is scheduled to ride the bike and volunteers ride along on their own bikes to assist them at each event. When the bike is not in use elsewhere, it is prominently parked in the library lobby.
“It has been so well received,” said Knox. “We have seen numerous likes and interactions on social media and it is prompting people to ask questions outside of the library, particularly those who likely wouldn’t have asked otherwise. It is really doing great things for awareness.”
With a wireless hotspot on board, the Bookbike now serves as an instant extension to OTPL’s checkout desk. Staff connects to their ILS through the Polaris Web Application, enabling them to issue new library cards and check out books right from a tablet or any mobile device.
“We see a lot of kids and parents together when we are out in parks. The bike really attracts their attention and makes it so easy for us to reach out to them,” said Knox. “They simply need to show an ID to check out a book. That’s all there is to it. We have issued so many new library cards this way.”
Candy, library swag, and donated books make the Bookbike even more appealing. Donated books are especially popular giveaway items. OTPL asks that patrons donate these books back to a library or drop them in the closest little free library in the community.
OTPL sees a lot of value in driving public interest through relevance and location. “We shelve different books according to the event or location we plan to visit,” said Sheridan. “For instance, if we’re at the flower fair, we pull books on gardening. And we like to keep books on hand about healthy living, as that correlates to the bike, too. It is an easy way to tap into what is going on in the community and build relationships with the people and organizations around us.”
The library sees great potential for the Bookbike in the months and years ahead. They look forward to exploring possibilities through their chamber of commerce, school campuses, and participating in largely populated events, like local parades.
Knox said the Bookbike can be an important catalyst for any library committed to expanding services and awareness, with careful forethought and research. “Will you have volunteer availability? Will the bike be reliable? How do you entice and train staff? Seeing the bike in person and how it works would also be helpful to the process. There was certainly a lot to think about up front. We also considered our strategic planning before making this decision. We are very happy to see how well the Bookbike contributes to our plan.”
For more information on the OTPL Bookbike, visit orionlibrary.org.