New York State Library

Division of Library Development

Regents Advisory Council on Libraries; The Joseph F. Shubert Library Excellence Award 2006: Honorary Winner

Albany Public Library Bookmobile

Albany Public Library's new bookmobile; click on the image for more information
Albany Public Library's Bookmobile

1. a) Briefly describe your library or library consortium (system) and the community it serves. Provide information about size, budget, type, users.

The Albany Public Library (APL) is chartered to serve the 95,716 residents who live in the City of Albany. As the Central Library for the Upper Hudson Library System, the library also provides materials and services to the 29 member libraries. In addition to the bookmobile, our current facilities consist of one main and five branch locations.

APL charter designation is school district library. The library's operating budget for 2006 is $5,026,000.

1. b) Briefly describe your project/achievement.

The Albany Public Library is pleased to nominate our Bookmobile for the 2006 Joseph F. Shubert Library Excellence Award. Providing mobile library service via a bookmobile in an urban setting is at the same time a throwback to an earlier age of library service (Albany Public Library had Ford "library truck" in the 1920's that delivered books to classrooms and a "Little Orange Bus" in 1960-70) and an innovative, forward thinking, service delivery concept.

The bookmobile service is coordinated by the Library's Outreach Dept. and provides day-to-day programs and services with the following Vision statement as the guiding principle: "Every City of Albany resident shall have regular and equitable access to the information, educational, and recreational resources and programs of the Albany Public Library." The name 'bookmobile' makes an important statement reinforcing the idea that the printed word, books and reading all continue to be vital to the mission of the public library.

On the technology side, the bookmobile also heralded the introduction of library "cyberservice" via the use of laptops and wireless access complete with barcode scanners and receipt printers so that remote library card registrations could be held at schools, community events, daycare centers, nursery schools, etc. This wireless access has been a benefit to all 29 UHLS libraries as we have registered many new customers for cards who are residents in many of the UHLS libraries service populations.

2. How did you identify the user need(s) for your project?

Our research, direct experience and financial support of mobile library service is an impressive 85 years plus and growing. We actually began to identify the power and potential of urban mobile library service back in the 1920's when the library instituted the delivery of classroom libraries. Although the vehicles changed and the advent of technology has altered library services, the principal mission of our bookmobile service remains unchanged as "The bookmobile provides library service to neighborhoods that are unserved or underserved due to economic, social, geographic, or other barriers. Empowering the underserved is the core of the library's mission."

3. What did your library or library consortium (system) do to respond to that (those) need(s)? What challenges were met?

The library has been actively involved in an ongoing facilities plan since 2002. However, even before the inception of our long-range facilities assessment our library board and administration realized the cluster configuration of locations and the large gap in traditional "bricks and mortar" library service in certain areas of the City of Albany. Our long-standing history with mobile library service and our Director's prior experience with and wholehearted belief in bookmobile service dovetailed perfectly and led to the third generation of mobile library service at APL.

We faced two simple challenges: acquiring a vehicle and publicizing the service. We had researched the cost of purchasing a new bookmobile and quickly realized that the majority of the budget earmarked to fund this program would be spent solely on a vehicle if we opted for a new bookmobile. About this same time, the Mid-York Library System advertised that their gently used bookmobile was for sale. The timing couldn't have been better and the problem of finding a vehicle provided a solution to both parties. We purchased the bookmobile, painted the exterior in APL colors of purple and aqua and stocked it with 3,000+ adult and children's books and have been an instant success ever since our debut in December 2005.

The library's very successful "Have You Seen the Big Purple Bus" public awareness campaign leading up to the introduction of the service generated a level of excitement and anticipation not often seen surrounding public library programs. The program is a tangible expression of the library's commitment to bring library services to Albany neighborhoods that do not have traditional "bricks and mortar" branch locations.

The primary functions of the Albany Public Library Bookmobile program/service are to:

4. What impact did this project have on your users and/or your community? Supply quantifiable data if appropriate.

An unexpected benefit has been the reactivation of library cards for those living in senior housing facilities. The bookmobile brings materials to where they live, allowing them to return to active cardholder status and also empowers them by allowing them to select and borrow their own reading material. In many cases this empowerment seems to bring even more joy to the customer's library experience.

This summer, the big purple bus has visited all 9 City School District of Albany summer school sites twice for a total of 18 stops, talked to 1170 students about the importance of reading and the summer reading program, and have collaborated with 32 teachers. We've registered 32 summer school students for library cards and have averaged 63 check outs per school stop, which is amazing considering that each summer school site has approximately 65 students. And these stops comprise roughly 18% of are regular bookmobile stops.

We continually receive phone calls and letters of support for this service. The phone calls and voicemails come from children who have seen the bookmobile on the road, adults who visited and were thrilled with the service and the collection, and also from customers looking for a particular book that only the bookmobile has in its collection.

Letters of support and pictures are as equally enthusiastic about the big purple bus.

The CSD of Albany is proud to continue its partnership with the Albany Public Library throughout the course of the summer months. Given the fact that during the school year, the APL has come into our schools for a variety of purposes, namely, to enroll children and their families into the library system, affording them many opportunities to extend literacy into their homes, it was a natural fit to call upon the APL to support our summer school reading efforts. Not only are the CSD of Albany elementary children participating in the Books: A Treasure summer reading campaign, they are enjoying visits, at all nine summer school sites, from the big purple bus - the mobile library on wheels. Students and their teachers are thrilled to welcome the bus onto school grounds, whereby students can browse through collections, hear about popular titles, participate in the book lending program and understand that the library is an important part of their lives at the present time and into their futures. -- Linda Rudnick, K-6 ELA Coordinator and ACSD Summer School Coordinator

I am writing to express our deep appreciation of the work of the Albany Public Library Bookmobile. The Bookmobile has been visiting our after-school program at the Arbor Hill Community Center, Inc. each week. The children, who would otherwise have little ability to access the library's services, are able to visit the library each and every week.

I believe that the introduction of this program into the local library has infused a much-needed resource and built a strong base in the thirty-five youngsters we serve in terms of their appreciation for reading and books. -- Harris Oberlander, CEO, Trinity Institution

It is often said that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, so we were indeed very flattered when APL was contacted by the Queens Borough Public Library to share our experience reinstituting bookmobile service. QBPL, an acknowledged leader in public library service, has recently purchased a used bookmobile and plans to add mobile library service to its offerings. Clearly this is a program whose time has come.

Albany Public Library's bookmobile program demonstrates a major commitment to enhancing library services to the community by taking library services directly to our constituents. "The big purple bus" will go wherever we can park. At 36' long, 10' wide, and 12'6" high, we are "on wheels, online and in your neighborhood."

Our bookmobile staff is comprised of 4 dedicated, energetic and fun-loving staff members who feel blessed to share their love of reading with our customers of all ages. "Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful people could change the world. Indeed, it's the only thing that ever has." [Margaret Mead] We live this statement each time we're out on or talk about the big purple bus.


Albany Public Library Bookmobile 'button'


Albany Public Library: Bookmobile service, coordinated by the Library's Outreach Department, providing day-to-day programs and services so that "[e]very City of Albany resident shall have regular and equitable access to the information, educational, and recreational resources and programs of the Albany Public Library."

Left: Albany Public Library Bookmobile 'button'

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