April 19, 2018

Bookmobile for a Day | Programs That Pop

The Lane Library at Armstrong State University (ASU) does not have a bookmobile, but on April 12, four librarians fashioned one out of a golf cart for National Bookmobile Day. The location was the entire ASU campus in Savannah. The weather was perfect, with a high of 79°.

Our story started on March 9 at a Savannah-area meeting of local library workers. A National Library Week brainstorming session ensued: ideas were flying, pens were jotting, and pages were filling up. Then, seeds began to germinate. After one librarian mentioned possibly using a golf cart as a bookmobile on her campus, I thought, “Hey, we could totally do that at my library!” I forgot to consider that Lane Library doesn’t actually own a golf cart. Small matter. Surely, there was a golf cart to be found on campus.

I came to work the next day buzzing with excitement over the prospect of our library being able to turn another department’s golf cart into our very own bookmobile for a day. The first hurdle? Recruiting my coworkers to go down this crazy road with me. I was able to persuade three of them to join in my goofy plan. The second hurdle? Asking my bosses for permission. They both said, “Yes.” Score!

The third hurdle? Procuring the golf cart from ASU’s facilities department. It couldn’t be just any golf cart. It had to have a cargo bed, with walls, not so deep that students couldn’t reach over the sides to grab a book, yet not so shallow that the books would topple out when we hit the gas. The result came in the form of wonderful, couldn’t-be-more-perfect golf cart #56. Hurdle 3.5; my coworkers and I had to take a mandatory golf cart driving safety course.

No big deal! We had this in the bag.

Getting up to speed

For weeks after our revelation, we couldn’t believe that all of the pieces of our plan were falling into place. We decided upon a Hawaiian luau theme, and Party City just happens to carry a 20-foot-long grass skirt that we could drape around the bookmobile. OK, it was really deck garland, but who’s splitting hairs? Then we stumbled upon a box of decorations in our Technical Services office filled with luau gear: leis, paper lanterns, more garland, and pink paper flamingos! (We threw the flamingos in for good measure.)

Soon, library employee volunteers were thick on the ground. Every time slot was filled, so there would be two people operating the bookmobile at all times—even work study students. Half the fun of driving a golf cart is having a passenger ride along. And having good tunes. Fortunately, my coworker brought in his wireless speaker so that we could crank the Hawaiian music while cruising around campus.

We knew our typical library program marketing campaign had to be ramped up for this unique event. I created posters announcing the arrival of the bookmobile, reminded ASU students about it weekly on the library’s Facebook page, listed it in ASU’s weekly email blast and on the events calendar, and asked ASU’s social media maven to use the school’s Twitter account to tweet the route in real time.

Getting on the road

Finally, the big day arrived. We took possession of the golf cart at 7:43 a.m., began decorating and loading at 8:30 a.m., and took off at 9:48 a.m. First stop, the Student Rec Center, where we checked out a book and a DVD. Bam! That’s how it’s done. Throughout the day, we stopped at 12 locations around campus, drove the bookmobile for six hours (and the batteries didn’t die) and checked out a grand total of 15 items.

Before you say our bookmobile was a failure owing to low circulation, consider this. Many students were gracious that we brought the books to them. Many had strong, positive reactions to the bookmobile, commenting on its genius and cuteness. Some staff and faculty discovered that our library actually circulates DVDs. We were paid a visit by the ASU mascot Captain George, who attempted to abscond with our bookmobile. And the soon-to-be-president of our rapidly changing institution (ASU is currently going through a consolidation with Georgia Southern University) shook our hand and discussed his enjoyable experiences with a bookmobile as a child. I would say this amounts to a win! Our library’s bookmobile created goodwill with our public, lifted spirits, and provided creative, nontraditional-for-an-academic-library outreach.

Kristi Smith is a Catalog/Metadata Librarian at Armstrong State University, Savannah

This article was published in Library Journal's June 1, 2017 issue. Subscribe today and save up to 35% off the regular subscription rate.

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  1. Genius idea! I’ll bet many academic libraries will pick up on this one.

  2. Gusty Indonesian says:

    I hope that programs to continuing … Good luck

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