Last week I had the honor and privilege to spend the afternoon on the Rochester Public Library (MN) bookmobile. It was a lovely fall afternoon to observe dedicated and caring staff serving people right in their neighborhoods.
To many librarians a bookmobile might seem like just a novelty item, but with careful thought and planning a bookmobile can provide incredible service to those in need.
The bookmobile requires daily collection development work. Since shelf space is extremely limited, staff must carefully select materials to take out on the route each day; they use their in-depth knowledge of the customers at each stop to guide their decisions.
The bookmobile has its own mission statement and staff strive to meet this mission every day:
Mission Statement The Rochester Public Library Bookmobile is dedicated to providing access to information, literature, and ideas to members of the community who are unable to use the main library due to geographic, transportation, economic or other barriers.
They also operate under core values, including an emphasis on early literacy.
A matrix is used to determine whether to add a new stop to the route. Several factors are weighed and each potential stop is given a score to determine whether it would be on mission. Here is a presentation by Cindy McFadden of the Arapahoe Library District (CO) detailing the creation of a similar matrix.
All of these things are important building blocks for excellent bookmobile services, but the best part, the absolute best part of the bookmobile is the staff. Customer service is clearly a priority. Operating on a two week schedule with several stops a day, staff manage to remember names of customers and their favorite books, they carefully stock the shelves with these kids in mind. They take as much time as necessary to help parents and kids find just the right book. On the bookmobile, staff can’t run to the back room for a break, they are “on” for a nice long (sometimes 10 hour) shift and still this dedicated group of people provides stellar customer service with a smile. They are building wonderful memories for the children who visit the library on wheels.