Home » Book-mo-bike: a creative solution to library space challenges

Book-mo-bike: a creative solution to library space challenges

by Cat Jackson

The Hopewell Borough’s public library is an old and beautiful building, but with no wheelchair ramp, no elevator, and very little internal space, it’s inaccessible to many Borough residents. The situation has become so challenging that library director Dr. Barbara Merry and other representatives sometimes personally deliver books to library patrons who are home-bound. Some think that* eventually, the library will need a new building. In the meantime, a clever solution has been proposed: a bicycle-based mobile unit. A $1,000 grant from the Hopewell Harvest Festival has been awarded to the project and earmarked for new books. Library staff have taken to affectionately referring to this future asset as the Book-Mo-Bike.

Book bikes serve the same functions as a bookmobile van might serve. The storage space, maintenance fees, and credentials needed to drive one, however, are much lower. The Borough is too small to justify a full-sized bookmobile, and a bike is able to go places that a van cannot. The bike eventually will be outfitted with a small book collection, a tablet outfitted with checkout credentials, and a mobile hotspot. This means that most essential library functions can be taken to festivals and public events cheaply and easily.

Phoenix Nutter, who is a staff librarian and the community outreach coordinator, has helped spearhead this project and said they hope to send the Book-Mo-Bike out on scheduled rounds so that those who live in the Borough can rely on it to check books in and out. Beyond that, though, the Book-Mo-Bike will “take the library off Broad street.”

Th Book-Mo-Bike has a second feature: extra space. The library building is very small, and this has hampered staff attempts to expand library holdings – especially with foreign language and bi-lingual books. Having that extra shelf means that books for those who are trying to learn a second language, or who have difficulty reading in English, can benefit from library resources. “The town has a multi-cultural component that’s not really reflected as well as it could be in the actual collection makeup of the library,” said Nutter. “[The library is] supposed to be the cultural heart of the community. We want to allow the heart to speak in more languages, as it were.”

In order to purchase the bike, the Borough needs another $5,000 in funding. Grant applications and library fundraisers are in the works to meet this goal. 

In addition to funding, there is a major concern with the Book-Mo-Bike project remains: road safety. During the library board meeting on November 30, concerns were raised by board members and members of the public alike. Two days earlier, on November 28, a bicyclist was injured by a car on Broad street – just a block away from where the board meeting was being held. Many citizens of the Borough take pride in the walking and biking culture of the area. Commuter traffic from out of town, on the other hand, does not always respect crosswalks or make sufficient room to pass bikers. Some bikers are also prone to disobeying important traffic safety laws by running red lights and stop signs, which increases the chance of injury from a collision.

Nobody wants to put a library staff member or volunteer in danger. Before a book-mo-bike is deployed in the community, the Library will put together a full safety plan and training guide. 

Featured Image: A book bike by Haley’s Tricycles in Philadelphia. This one is outfitted with a media center. Used with permission.

*Edited 1/22/24 to reflect that there is no consensus yet about whether the library will need to move to a new building.

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