Blogger Heather Acerro

RPL BookBike: A Wheelie Good Season

Sarah on sidewalkIn May, I wrote a blog post about Rochester Public Library’s new BookBike program. Now that we are waiting for the snow to fall here in Minnesota, it seems like time to update you on our wonderful BookBike season.

The BookBike program took a lot of planning, details, money and scheduling magic. It took us 9 months from the moment we had this bike-tastic idea until we started our outreach schedule; we worked through a single spaced to-do list that was five pages long and involved people from every division of the library. It has been worth every bit of effort that we put into it. So many great things happened out there on the road, where we met people who had never been in our building, where we made connections with kids about reading and biking, and where we shared information and provided access to resources and services. It was a wheelie good time. I’ll stop with the the bicycle puns here. I promise.

We had the BookBike IMG_0009on the road from late April through September. We carried books for check-out, incentives (bike lights, water bottles, sidewalk chalk, bubbles), technology (iPad running Sirsi Mobile Circ, scanner and wifi hotspot), library information (program schedules and brochures), community resource information, and bicycling and safety equipment (spare tubes, first aid kit, sunscreen, etc.). While out at a BookBike stop we signed customers up for library cards, checked out books, talked up library programs and spaces, provided e-book and digital support, and handed out incentives.

We purchased a collection of materials just for the BookBike and shadowed it in the library catalog. We wanted customers to have access to some of the newest and most-popular Spine labelitems when they visited the BookBike. We created our own spine stickers in house to make sure they didn’t get confused with other items in the collection and could make their way back quickly to the BookBike collection storage.

Our outreach schedule was pretty hectic, we had the BookBike out (weather permitting) from five to seven days a week over the summer months. We kept the BookBike within a one-mile radius of the library, which is located in our downtown area. We set up at Honkers baseball games, Rochester Downtown Farmers Market, Rochester Pride Fest, RochesterFest, Art on the Ave and many, many, many local parks.

Seventeen staff volunteered to ride the BookBike and were provided with training on bicycle safety, the Mobile Circ application and general outreach. We also relied on many partnerships to provide us with specialized training, support and opportunities to set-up and meet customers.

Eric & Laura on 2nd StreetWe emailed surveys to everyone who checked out materials during our grant period which ran through June 2015. Of the 59 people who completed the survey:

  • 54% indicated that they learned something new about the library at the BookBike
  • 98% rated their experience at the BookBike as good to outstandiBack displayng.

For April through September we attended 113 events, had 5,696 visitors, answered 1,172 questions, checked out 697 items and created 60 new library cards.

We are already  making plans for next year for  marketing, outreach, collection development and staffing. We learned a lot and will put all that we know to good use as soon as warm spring weather arrives.

The BookBike project was funded in part with money from Minnesota’s Arts and Cultural Heritage Fund, through a Community Collaboration grant from Southeast Libraries Cooperating (SELCO).

**Update: 12/15/2015**

I am happy to announce that RPL’s BookBike has won a Local Government Innovation Award from the Humphrey School of Public Affairs at the University of Minnesota. They made a lovely video about the project, which you can watch here.


  1. Kate

    Congrats on the award!

  2. Pingback: RPL ArtCart: Rochester's New Art Movement - ALSC Blog

  3. Pingback: Getting Logical - ALSC Blog

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *