Oakland Public Library's Bike Library at Public Market Emeryville last summer.

Pedal-Powered Bookmobile

Remember the bookmobile of old? Typically a slow-moving van-wagon, it provided a way for public libraries to integrate into communities with direct outreach services. While those van-wagons still serve a purpose, the 21st century version is here and it’s pedal-powered.

The Oakland Public Library is on the cutting-edge with its Bike Library. Designed by local builder Kick Trailer in 2013, the OPL Bike Library features two sides of cascading bookshelves and space for storage. The unique invention allows librarians to conduct nimble outreach, with materials check-out, library card registrations and demos of online services.

You can catch the OPL Bike Library in action at community events. Last month, Public Market hosted the two-wheeled wagon, causing a brief sensation on Instagram.

Bike libraries are a relatively new phenomenon, with a few other cities entertaining the roving structures, including Iowa City, Arcata, Fort Collins and Santa Cruz. Along with the resurgence of the bicycle for both leisure and commuting, municipalities are seeing bike libraries not only as a way to cut down on vehicles miles, but also a more welcoming and novel option to the traditional bookmobile.

Mana Tominaga, a librarian and frequent operator of OPL’s Bike Library, says, “We’re hoping that it will be a nice reminder to visit their local library, and also, just a way to get books into the hands of readers without a lot of obstacles.”

Tominaga continues, “I think it serves to diminish the perception of libraries and librarians being stoic and static. We’re out there and we’re actively promoting cycling.”

Not to mention, promoting books! Follow the OPL Bike Library on Twitter for its latest whereabouts: @OPLBikeLibrary