For the past ten years, Luis Soriano, a teacher in the small town of La Gloria, Colombia, has been following the same ritual. Every week-end, he gathers his donkey in front of his house, straps on the “Biblioburro” pouches to its back, and loads them with a selection of books from the eclectic collection he has acquired over the years. Off on his mobile library, he travels into the hills and through the fields to the villages beyond where children await his visits impatiently. He firmly believes that bringing books to people who don’t have access to them can improve the country and open up possibilities for the future generation of Colombia.
Only the New York Times would call the act of getting books to people that don’t have them using locally appropriate technology “whimsical.” Here is the story of Luis Soriano and his Colombian Biblioburro (photo essay).
It’s Banned Books Week and I’ve been discussing issues of access. Today the Boston Globe has this alternatingly irritating and sweet article this week Bookmobiles’ final chapter?. Forgetting for a moment that they broke the cardinal rule of using dippy headlines to downplay whatever seriousness the article might have had, this story talks about the demise of the bookmobile at the same time as it reports on the Beverly Public Library’s fundraising attempts to buy a new one. It seems, again, like a reporter has decided on the article they wish to write before actually learning about the topic and if I were the Beverly Public Library I’d be pretty annoyed that this article frames the bookmobile idea as something from a bygone era. The article doesn’t even have the wherewithall to cite any actual data preferring to allude to experts saying “Some blame skyrocketing gas prices. Others say bookmobiles became irrelevant in communities where residents can get easy access to other resources, such as the Internet.” The caption of the photo even puts the word “Bookmobile” in quotes as if it’s some weird made-up library word.
Do people really think that the Internet is replacing the bookmobile? I’d be much more inclined to think that increasingly mobile patrons and the increase of decent school libraries has done more for making the bookmobile less needed. We still have bookmobiles, part of the year, in rural communities here. Heck we have a mobile DMV vehicle that comes to remote towns to help people register their cars. Not everyone can drive the 45 minutes from here to the DMV, particularly if their car isn’t registered. The ALA is the voice of reason in this article, with Satia Orange quoted as saying “There are communities where bookmobiles are the primary place to get information, in rural areas where getting to a library is difficult or a low-income area where computers are not in every home, where people cannot afford to buy books.” Let’s keep in mind that if you’re rural enough to not have a nearby library you probably also don’t have nearby broadband.
Here’s what an Internet Bookmobile does in Finland. [thanks urmas]
Many of us have a bookmobile fetish. I know I do. I was heavy in negotiations with the Internet Archive to get to drive their bookmobile around NH/VT with Casey this Summer but life intervened and it didn’t happen. How happy was I, then, to see my friends James and Shinjoung from FreeGovInfo as well as Sarah from the September Project [and a colleague of mine from MaintainIT] driving the adorable van around Northern California. Steve Cisler wrote about the Internet Bookmobile for First Monday several years ago and it’s an article worth reading.
Sarah’s bookmobile posts are here, James and Shinjoung’s posts are here. (hint for drupal blog maintainers, you’ll get better results in Google if you change the URLs for your texonomy to include the term not just a number). They’re still going, through September 15th, if you’re in Northern California, see if you can see them.
The DC library system is rolling out its Xtreme Mobile library as a stopgap measure while they get new library facilities opened in places in the District with no library service. It’s a neat idea, but is providing a little bit of a library going to slow up plans to get a real library to those areas?
Saccocio [head of the Friends of Tenley Library Association] believes a 32-foot bus can never replace everything that a library building provides.
“This bus, it’s just sort of insignificant. It’s very little service here that’s being offered to a neighborhood. It’s very insufficient,” she said.
Saccocio and other library volunteers worry that the continued stopgaps — the bus and the temporary storefront libraries — will delay the reconstruction of libraries that closed a year ago in Anacostia, Shaw, Benning and Tenleytown.
The bookmobile goes to five locations once a week for a maximum visit of 4 1/4 hours and a minimum of 1 3/4 hours at a time. So, in the least-visited area, that’s only seven hours of library services a month. You can see what the hours are at the rest of the DC Public system here. [thanks dsdlc]