Jolee Hamlin knows that there is a difference between a traditional library branch and the Capital Area District Library, CADL, mobile library. As senior associate director of CADL, Hamlin deals with the inner workings of the different branches, including a branch that moves over the course of the day.
Hamlin said CADL’s mobile library, previously known as the bookmobile, brings services out into communities.
“We go to places where often transportation is a challenge,” Hamlin said. “We go to places that would be underserved if we didn’t go there.”
A large truck travels throughout the Lansing area, bringing a library right into people’s neighborhoods.
Mobile library assistant Levi LaBruzzy said that the route is catered towards the people who can most benefit from the service. Poverty is a reality in both urban and rural areas.
“It’s a service that a lot of people find very valuable,” said LaBruzzy.
The mobile library travels to elderly communities, low-income housing, and daycares, among other stops. Yolanda Williams is outreach coordinator at one of these stops, the South Side Community Coalition. The CADL mobile library comes to visit the after-school program there weekly, providing the 15 children an opportunity to check out and explore new books.
Williams said that the kids are able to pick out the books they want to read ahead of time, all of which will be dropped off on their weekly visit. This last drop-off had books themed for fall and Halloween, along with books of their choice, Williams said.
But while the books are excellent for the children, there is something even better about the mobile library that doesn’t involve just books.
“They’re just friendly people,” said Williams. That kindness goes a long way.
When the COVID-19 pandemic struck, the mobile library team was determined to continue this service, even if that meant adapting how the mobile library was set up. After the stay-at-home order was lifted for Michigan, CADL began to execute a new system for the mobile library.
“It took some creative thinking,” LaBruzzy said. “The situation keeps evolving, but we were making sure things were safe and people were safe.”
Hamlin said that because of how interactive the mobile library is, the team had to be innovative in finding ways to pivot the service.
Hamlin said they had to ask themselves “what could we do to try to make this work?”
She said that they weren’t able to find solutions for every stop on their route. One solution that did arise was to transition to a curbside, grab-and-go service, instead of traditional browsing. This way, they were still able to create what Hamlin calls a “curated service,” providing individualized books and suggestions based on the interests of the readers.
“Some of them actually preferred that,” said Hamlin. “If anything, [the pandemic] has just added curated services.”
After all the changes, Hamlin said she is impressed by the staff that continue to go out into the community.
Hamlin said, “it takes really dedicated people to do this job.”
The dedication is noticed by the community, too. LaBruzzy said that people were so happy to see the mobile library again. The in-person CADL branches have re-opened for the public, and the mobile library has continued its modified services. LaBruzzy said that the team would love to have people come onto the vehicle and browse in-person again.
As LaBruzzy said, “it’s just about finding the best ways to serve.”