After seeing an article about a library service brought to the community via bicycle in Seattle, Washington, Christine Pennington, the youth services librarian at Mitchell Park Library in Palo Alto, was struck with the idea of bringing something similar to the city.
In response to her proposal, the library debuted a new program called Bike PALS (Palo Alto Library Services), featuring two bicycles that would bring books and popular library services directly to the community.
One bicycle resembles an ice cream cart stocked with library and craft materials while the other sports a basket large enough to hold library supplies and maps of safe routes to Palo Alto's five libraries.
In order to see the project through, the library received a $12,500 grant from the Pacific Library Partnership Innovation and Technology Opportunity Grant Program, as well as a $2,500 donation from Friends of the Palo Alto Library.
"As of now, the plan is to be able to visit community events and bring books for checkout, issue library cards, showcase books and magazines available for download and offer pop-up storytimes," said Pennington, adding that she has already seen a blossoming relationship between the community and Bike PALS.
The bikes, she said, are often stopped by curious onlookers. And the opportunity to be out in the community has given library staff a chance to receive feedback and learn more about residents, Pennington said.
"We are having a fun time seeing regular library customers out in the community, as well as meeting people who haven’t been using our services," Pennington said.
On the same note, Library Manager of Youth Services Jenny Jordan echoed her colleague’s optimism.
"I enjoy meeting the community. The kids are always so excited when they see us on the bikes," she said.
The idea of a "books-on-wheels" service is not exactly a new one, with many libraries using bookmobiles to reach farther sides of communities that may not have easy access to a library. Nevertheless, the library decided to iterate upon this idea, moving the service from the front seat of a van to the saddle of a bike.
"Books on bikes is a newer trend that libraries have been entering in for the past couple of years, and we are excited to be a part of it during its early development," said Pennington, adding that it is a traditional concept to receive services on bikes, but that it is also filled with endless innovative potential.
Mitchell Park Library, Pennington said, has made great strides as of late to become a hub for community services, with programs like New Americans, which connects and strengthens the city’s diverse communities through knowledge, resources and opportunities, according to the City of Palo Alto website.
While Bike PALS is still in the early stages of its existence, library staff said they are always looking ahead to the future and are excited about how the program will evolve.
"So far the community has been very supportive, they are interested in the idea and seem excited to see where we will be headed next," Pennington said.