Last year the Free Library acquired two bicycle-powered mobile libraries to attend events on behalf of the library. The bikes are handmade by Philadelphia’s own Haley Tricycles and are designed to tote and display books in a custom tailored trailer. In our first year, dedicated (and sometimes sweaty) library staff went to over 30 events ranging from farmers' markets and school events to outdoor storytimes and health fairs. At these events, we signed patrons up for library cards, checked out books, and distributed information on the library and its exciting resources.
As much as I love being in local neighborhood libraries like Haverford Library and South Philadelphia Library, I was also lucky enough to ride the Book Bike to several events last year. I love bringing the experience of the library beyond our physical walls and integrating further into existing city life. I am frequently stopped on the street and asked about where I’m going by people wanting to learn more information about the Book Bike and the Free Library in general. Lucky folks stuck behind the Book Bike in traffic get to not only be frustrated by urban congestion but also got to think about the library and our services. You’re welcome for that gift, commuters of Philadelphia!
With this special bookmobile, we have had some unique concerns. For example, one of the first events I took the Book Bike out to was Parks on Tap, a pop-up restaurant and beer garden sponsored by the Parks Department on Belmont Plateau. In my naiveté I thought pedaling a 300-pound bike up to the top of a generous hill in the middle of July was a good idea. Let me tell you, it was not. Now I know to not agree to anything with "plateau" in the name! Next time I will pass those events on to the Free Library's Techmobile.
Bookmobiles take all shapes and forms, but I love how the Book Bike is a sustainable alternative to these mobile services. I am going to take a guess and say we might be Philadelphia’s greenest bookmobile. If anyone wants to compete for that title, please get in touch with me because I want to know about your work and start an eco-friendly bookmobile club. I’ll extend that invitation to anyone who wants to talk more about the Book Bike or have it at your next event (RossL@freelibrary.org).