Outreach Services Librarian
Arapahoe Library District, Centennial, CO
MLIS, University of Denver, 2008
Photo by Jim Larimer
When mobile services librarian Richard Lyda started work at Arapahoe Library District in 2008, the bookmobile had just died. This pushed him into the fast lane. He used data and stories about bookmobile patrons to convince the library board to purchase a replacement. “Convincing the stakeholders that there is a need was a challenge,” Lyda says. “It can be easy to overlook populations that might not come into the library or know of the library.”
Ultimately, Lyda redefined the library’s method of identifying critical need, the main factor he used to select stop locations. He evaluated population density, geographic and economic conditions, and barriers to library service.
Before purchasing a new vehicle, Lyda drove a 22′ Dodge Sprinter van crammed with five carts of books, DVDs, and CDs to the bookmobile stops. He and another library worker rolled the carts into senior centers or gathering spots outside of apartment complexes to serve patrons in both English and Spanish (21.9 percent of county residents speak a language other than English—mostly Spanish).
Lyda’s story times outside of high-density, low-income apartments drew all ages, says Donna Walker, his former supervisor (now at Jefferson County Public Library, CO). “As he started reading, more people streamed across the parking lot: moms with babies, middle school kids, teens, all to sit and share a story with Richard,” Walker says. “He made it participatory and fun. Everyone called out in response to his questions about what might happen next. It was a magical moment.”
But winter service was spotty when snow and extreme cold interfered, Lyda says.
Still, Lyda’s drive to serve paid off. In 2010, the board spent $245,000 on a 34′-long bus that Lyda recommended after educating himself on air brakes and a chassis suitable for winter. Ultimately, the same library staff tripled the bookmobile’s open hours and doubled program attendance. “We ended up with the perfect vehicle going to all the right communities at all the right times,” Walker says.
Circulation rose dramatically, from 82,395 in 2008 to 176,496 in 2011. “[The bus has] been on the road for three years, and circulation keeps going up,” says Lyda, who sits on the Association of Bookmobile and Outreach Services Board of Directors.
Lyda is using both the new bookmobile and the van to close the digital divide with a mobile technology lab. His goal is to bring tablets, ereaders, laptops, and other devices to his bookmobile patrons. Arapahoe outreach coordinator Padma Polepeddi (a 2008 Mover & Shaker) says that Lyda “never lets library management forget that…equity of access must include populations that cannot go to four-walled, physical libraries.”