Traveling Libraries: Librarians Thinking Outside the Box

Libraries are like safe havens to our patrons, but what happens when they can’t get to one? We have heard of the book mobiles, and some libraries throughout the nation have them! But what if books on wheels is not the only form of delivery, what else is out there?

As a library school student I’ve decided to look around and explore the variety of libraries around the globe. We are so accustomed to walking or driving to our home library. Little do we know about other people and children who desire to read but are nowhere near a library?

I really believe that it’s highly important to provide patrons with library materials anywhere they are.

I came across an amazing book titled My Librarian is a Camel, this is such a great book to read and get a perspective of traveling libraries. The book emphasizes on getting books to children one way or another. For instance, using animals, boats, bikes, and cars as mean of transportation for books.

One of the stories that blew me away was the one of Luis Soriano a Colombian librarian who travels too remote villages and teaches children how to read. I found this to be interesting as he houses all his books in his house and travels with then and his two donkeys Alfa, and Beto, which together mean alphabet. He is considered a hero among the children and parents, as he takes the time to get books from village to village. His travels may take from 6a.m. to 10p.m. I consider this my favorite form of a traveling library, as the children get to learn how to read with a librarian, play with the donkeys, and borrow books all in one shot!!

Another cool form of traveling library is in Finland where boats are used to deliver books to patrons. BOATS!!! Who would have thought right? Well there is a boat names Kalkholm which means “Limestone Island”, that carries about 600 books! The boat is boarded by a librarian and an assistant who then travel along the southern coast and make around ten stops. AMAZING is the only word I can find to describe it. Children wait for the boad to arrive and hurry in to find the book that pikes their interest to check out!

Canada is another country that does something outstanding. In Nunavut a territory in Northern Canada, the library is miles away, and its extremely cold and snowy. People have a hard time getting to the library but have no issue getting to the post office. The solution was that the library offers a Borrow-by-Mail program, which means that the patrons can request the books, and will receive them in the mail a couple of days or weeks later. This is great news for all those avid readers. When the children are ready to pick up their books at their post office, they bundle up and get their sleds ready. They ride their sled or walk with others all the way until they pick up their brown package from the library. What an experience. I would totally ride a sled to get to my books!

The last two forms of delivery consist in utilizing animals, one location is Kenya where camels travel with the librarians. The librarians pack the books and tie them to the camels who then make their way to the village and brings smiles to children and parents. The children are entitled to keep the books for two weeks until they must return them. In Thailand they use Elephant! I personally love elephants, and to know that they deliver books makes me extra happy. Since many villages are only reached by foot, and books are heavy it was settled that elephants were strong enough for these trips. The Books-by- Elephants Program has twenty elephants that distribute books to a variety of villages in region. Children are taught how to read and write which is awesome.

Libraries don’t have to be a traditional building, it can travel and bring joy and happiness to people at a distance!

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