Bookmobiles, Deposit Collections, and the Other Outreach Methods of Massachusetts Libraries

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In celebration of National Library Outreach Day, we want to highlight some of the libraries throughout the state who reach their residents beyond the confines of their library buildings.

These libraries represent a selection of the amazing work being done to reach everyone across our state. Workers use bookmobiles, deposit collections, and other means of outreach to ensure all residents have equitable access to library resources.

 

Keep reading to learn about the positive impacts these outreach methods have on Massachusetts communities!

Libraries Discussed in this Blog

Beverly Public Library – Beverly, MA

Beverly Bookmobile parked by trees.
The Beverly Public Library bookmobile.

What is your name and position, the name of your library, and the community your library serves?

My name is Katie Marsh. I am the Head of Bookmobile Services for the Beverly Public Library. The bookmobile visits schools, daycare centers, nursing homes, assisted living residences, low income housing, senior housing, and residential neighborhoods within the city of Beverly, Massachusetts. We serve patrons of all ages and learning interests at the more than 80 stops that we make during our 3-week route.

Why did your library decide to get a bookmobile?

The city of Beverly has had continuously operating bookmobile services for almost 65 years! The very first bookmobile was dedicated on October 23, 1959. As we have had a bookmobile for so long, I am unsure what went into the decision to purchase a bookmobile. From what I have been able to find by looking through meeting minutes from that year, it looks as though the library had been offering home delivery services for some time, and that the librarian who made the deliveries requested an increase in her monthly allowance to cover the rising cost of car insurance. The request was denied, but the discussion sparked the idea of a bookmobile.

How has your bookmobile affected your outreach to your patrons?

I’m not sure what our outreach services looked like before we got a bookmobile, but I can say that the bookmobile allows us to reach far more people than I think we would otherwise. From September of 2020 through May of 2021, the bookmobile was off the road due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The interior of the vehicle was not spacious enough to allow for social distancing, and so for that period of time, my part-time colleague and I delivered library materials in our car. We conducted extensive Reader’s Advisory interviews, picked out hundreds of books each week, and did contactless delivery for months.

We made it work, but through that experience I developed a deep and abiding appreciation for just how much more we can accomplish and how much better we can serve our community with the use of a bookmobile. The sheer scale of service that a dedicated outreach vehicle allows us to provide is immeasurable, and I still remember the beaming smiles on our patrons’ faces when they could at last be welcomed back on board the bookmobile.

How has your community responded?

The communities and individuals the bookmobile serves have always been passionately supportive of the bookmobile. Hundreds of people in our community use the bookmobile regularly, including people without cars or drivers licenses, people who use wheelchairs or walkers, and people whose health conditions prevent them from being able to go to our brick-and-mortar branches. We are able to visit low income communities and provide services to children whose parents may work multiple jobs and therefore be unable to bring their child to the library, and we also partner with many of the schools in the city, supplementing curricula with books and also helping teachers kindle a love of reading in their students.

In return, we are so fortunate to have vocal support from the community. Even those who do not use the bookmobile themselves have come out to show their support when we have needed it. Though this precedes my time at the Beverly Public Library, colleagues of mine have told stories of the years the library fundraised for a new bookmobile. Even people who did not necessarily have money to spare came to the library regularly to donate a few dollars here and there, giving whatever support they could, to allow us to continue services.

Are there any stories you would like to share on how the bookmobile positively impacted your patrons?

Too many to list! We are so fortunate to have a supportive community that loves the bookmobile. I could go on about the patrons who have been visiting the bookmobile since their children were babies, and who now bring their grandchildren to the bookmobile, or about the look of wonder that crosses someone’s face when they see the bookmobile for the first time. I’ve worked in a number of different libraries in a variety of roles, and the bookmobile is unlike anything else I have ever experienced.

It is both humbling and inspiring to see people welcome the library into their homes and into their lives. I get to meet patrons’ spouses, siblings, children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren, neighbors, best friends, and pets. I get to hear incredible stories about their lives, and I get to see up close the impact that libraries can have on the lives of those who need them most. It is truly a privilege to be in this role, and I would encourage any library to give serious thought to adding an outreach department.

Sawyer Free Library – Gloucester, MA

What is your name and position, the name of your library, and the community your library serves?

Two people outside a building.
Meg O’Neill and Leah Svensson of the Sawyer Free Library.

My name is Leah Svensson, Community Librarian at Sawyer Free Library in Gloucester, Massachusetts. Our deposit collection serves the residents at the Central Grammar Apartments, a housing facility for ages 62 years and older.

Why did your library decide to get a deposit collection?

The Sawyer Free Library is currently undergoing a major renovation set to be completed in 2025. Before renovations, the Central Grammar residents had the convenience of walking right next door to the library to browse, read, and borrow books and other materials. Due to our move to a temporary location a couple of miles away from the old location, many of the residents expressed that they would find it challenging to make regular trips to the library, as was part of their daily routine prior to the construction. So, I thought, why not bring the library to them?

It would be great to still offer library materials to the residents to allow them to still have a selection of material to browse from without worrying about how to access the temporary location. Despite all of the changes and disruptions that construction causes, it felt important to ensure that library accessibility would not be compromised.

How has the deposit collection affected your outreach to your patrons?

The deposit collection at the Central Grammar Apartments.

The deposit collection has returned a sense of normalcy in routine that the Central Grammar residents associate with the library, a daily or weekly task that breaks up their day and gives them a sense of positive anticipation and excitement. It also has allowed me as a librarian to learn the reading habits and interests of these patrons, and to cater to those interests by paying close attention to patron suggestions and also what genres of books are frequently borrowed.

How has your community responded?

Patrons at Central Grammar are very enthusiastic about the deposit collection, especially when new books are cycled every two months. Whenever I am at the location shelving new material, residents often come up to me and not only express their excitement, but also give suggestions and discuss what kinds of books and authors they typically enjoy, and what books from the last cycle they really enjoyed reading. The check-out sheets are always quickly filling up, which is lovely to see! The building managers, Audrey and Kerry, are so incredible and so accommodating of the library using some of their space, and it has been wonderful to work with them.

Are there any stories you would like to share on how the deposit collection positively impacted your patrons?

Though there aren’t any specific stories, the passing conversations I have with the building managers and the residents are a true highlight for me. A common topic of discussion is our new building that is set to be complete in 2025; I think the residents are excited about a brand new library, and they really enjoy hearing about how the daily operations are going on in the temporary space. By bringing part of the library to the Central Grammar residents, their connection to the library as a whole has remained strong and fortified their excitement for what’s to come.

Watertown Free Public Library – Watertown, MA

The Watertown Free Public Library bookmobile.
The Watertown Free Public Library bookmobile.

What is your name and position, the name of your library, and the community your library serves?

My name is Theresa Maturevich, Assistant Director at Watertown Free Public Library in Watertown, Massachusetts.

Why did your library decide to get a bookmobile?

The library wanted a bookmobile to bring not just books, but as many library resources and services as possible to every corner of the Watertown community. Our “Speed Reader” has public wifi, a variety of library and promotional materials, and a staff workstation for creating new library cards and checking out items.

How has your bookmobile affected your outreach to your patrons?

It has been a great way to get out of the building and meet our patrons where they are in the community. It has allowed us to have an eye-catching way to visits schools, apartments, shopping plazas, parks, and community events, invite the public to learn more about what the library has to offer, and sign them up for library cards.

How has your community responded?

Watertown residents have been hugely supportive of the bookmobile. Funding for it was privately raised and we’ve had enthusiastic responses from local spots as we arrange stops around the city.

As one patron said, “I keep meaning to go to the library, but you came to me!”

It has been amazing to see how positively people view it and the level of responsiveness we can provide when returning to a location on a regular basis such as bringing requested formats to particular stops or adding in a storytime to others.

Are there any stories you would like to share on how the bookmobile positively impacted your patrons?

When the bookmobile visited a Summer Success program for middle school students this summer, students were so excited to see books in Spanish and Russian that they borrowed books not just for themselves, but for their younger siblings and their parents as well. They didn’t realize that library cards and borrowing was free and at least one has since become an enthusiastic library patron.

Worcester Public Library – Worcester, MA

Patrons stand outside of a bookmobile.
The Worcester Public Library’s “Libby” bookmobile.

What is your name and position, the name of your library, and the community your library serves?

My name is Garrett Morin, Interim Deputy Director of Borrower Services at Worcester Public Library. Our library serves the City of Worcester.

Why did your library decide to get a bookmobile?

Since 1940, intermittent bookmobile services had been offered in the City of Worcester. These services played an important outreach role, connecting new users and raising awareness of library services throughout the city. In 1991, the services were discontinued. However, on Monday, June 4, 2012, the Worcester Public Library announced the official launch of its new Mobile Library Branch, Library Express “Libby.”

This pilot program was initially launched with a used 1992 bookmobile. Due to the success of the program, an additional bookmobile “Lilly” was launched in January of 2014. In January of 2018, a new and improved “Libby” hit the road.

How has your bookmobile affected your outreach to your patrons?

The bookmobiles are important because they allow us to meet our patrons where they are, whether that’s at their school, housing, or special events out in our community. By meeting our patrons in the community, this allows us to connect with those who may have trouble getting to one of our branch locations. This is an important part of our library providing services equitably to all patrons. Attending school visits is also an excellent way of introducing children to their library, and putting books in their hands, which we hope will instill in them a love of reading, and make them a life-long library user.

How has your community responded?

The community enjoys seeing Libby and Lilly on the road and at our mobile stops. Both bookmobiles are very eye-catching, and our patrons always have a good experience when they step on board. People wave as we drive by, they love to ask questions, and everyone looks forward to their monthly school visits and book deliveries.

Are there any stories you would like to share on how the bookmobile positively impacted your patrons?

Whether we are serving the general public, or on a school visit to a local library who does not have access to their own, the bookmobile impacts patrons daily. We often visit communities where patrons aren’t able to get transportation to a branch and being able to come to them means that we can share our services.