I’ve kept seeing stories about libraries on bicycle pop up on my news feed, and just assumed the same story was getting a lot of play. Certainly there are a lot of new ways to get books to people, as the Little Free Libraries and Indianapolis’s Public Collection demonstrate, but did adding pedals and spokes make it that big of a deal that it kept getting re-reported?
But now that I take a closer look, I see the stories are about at least three different pedal-powered libraries. They seem to be terribly popular all of a sudden!
First, NBC News had a story about a program called “Books on Bikes” in Seattle, an outreach program of the local public library that would let people sign up for library cards and check out books from the pop-up mini-library.
Then Public Bikes’s blog had a piece looking at several bicycle library programs, such as San Francisco librarian Alicia Tapia’s portable free library that she bicycles around to local parks.
Her pedal-powered library is called Bibliobicicleta and her mission is to spread the love of reading books and riding bikes. Tapia says, “Our goal is to get people to stop in the middle of their busy days to open a book and let their mind ease. An enthusiasm for books is highly contagious. We model reading for our children so that they can pass that on.”
Tapia is running a Kickstarter to upgrade to an electric bike to increase her library’s range. Visual News has another story about Tapia. Another program that comes in for a mention is Tucson’s “Riding to Reading”.
Finally, InfoDocket links to a brief local news video about Madison, Wisconsin’s “Spoke-n-Words” bicycle library. As with Books on Bikes, this bike trailer includes all the necessary gear for operating as a miniature branch of the local public library, including signing people up for library cards.
Perhaps the most interesting thing about all the programs is seeing all the different ways people figured out to design library trailers for their bikes—there’s no one particular design. Tapia’s Bibliobicicleta looks like a bookshelf on wheels; Madison’s Spoke-N-Words is a big cube that unfolds. Other libraries use those bicycle ice cream stands that have a big rectangular storage compartment in the front.
But for all their differences, they all share the common goal of getting printed books to people where there aren’t any. And they do it a lot better than they can with e-books. (Though you never know, maybe once the $50 Fire is out, some library will try buying a few six-packs and trundling them around on a trailer. But even then, those would have to be checked back in, while Tapia is free to give her books away.)