Pedal power and page-turning are like peanut butter and chocolate (although, OK, maybe not at the same exact time). So it’s peachy keen that libraries in cities like Seattle, Denver, Portland, and Tucson are combining the two to bring books to the masses.
As far as I can tell, the unofficial books-by-bike pioneer is writer Gabriel Levinson, who started delivering books to people in Chicago parks via a custom-built bike in 2008. Following in his foot-clips three years later was Laura Moulton, who started Portland’s Street Books for people who don’t have a permanent address (and thus can’t register for a traditional library card):
Patrons are issued an official Street Books library card without being required to show proof of address or identification. We use an old-school library pocket and a card that patrons sign and leave with us. During our twice-weekly shifts, patrons stop by to check out and return library books. They are invited to be photographed with their book, and these photos and stories are collected at our site: streetbooks.org.
In 2012, Tucson librarian Karen Greene got on board, citing inspiration from Levinson when she launched Pima County Public Library’s traveling Bookbike. In its first year, the Bookbike distributed more than 11,000 books to area residents. As Greene told Arizona Public Media:
The Bookbike is an adult, three-wheeled tricycle that has a specially-created box in the front. When you open it up, it has bookshelves and it can hold hundreds of books. We take the Bookbike out to different locations to give away the books, to give away library cards, to give out information about library programs and literacy projects, as well as bike maps and bike programs.
And just last week, the Denver Public Library joined the pedal party, introducing DPL Connect, “a pedal-powered mobile library and wi-fi hotspot.” The “tricked-out trike” tailors its books to its location, such as carrying cookbooks to give away at a farmers market. Thanks to DPL Connect, people can download audio books and ebooks, sign up for a library card, get help with research, and get book recommendations.
Two days ago, the Seattle Public Library snagged the attention of NPR for its pilot Books on Bikes program. Books on Bikes staffers register people for library cards, sign kids up for summer reading programs, and inform parents about story time in their neighborhood. As Seattle farmers market visitor Barbara Clements told NPR:
It’s just nice to have books in circulation, easy to get to. It’s not a special thing, it’s just like, hey, here’s part of your day, like your lettuce or your ice cream.
Seattle librarian Jared Mills said he hoped Books on Bikes would herald an ongoing shift of libraries being more outreach-focused:
I would like to be part of ushering in this new era of librarianship that’s just a lot more mobile and agile and really responsive to the community and the needs.
PREACH. Check out this video of SPL’s launch of Books on Bikes: