How Bookmobiles Can Reach Underserved Communities

Across the US, libraries play a critical role in ensuring that communities have access to books, educational materials, computers, the internet, classes, and connection to resources — all at no cost.

For underserved communities, the role of the public library is even more important. However, in some cases, these communities are not able to access their public library, leaving them at a disadvantage.

This is why bookmobiles are designed to reach those areas and fill in the gap. Bookmobiles are available in a variety of styles and sizes, from small vans to large trailers. Regardless of the size or style of the bookmobile, they are a valuable asset for underserved communities.

In this guide, we will take a look at how your community might benefit from using a bookmobile to reach the underserved around you.

Mobility = More Ground Covered

A brick-and-mortar library building is most often utilized by those living nearby. For communities with a large rural population, access to a physical library might not be a practical choice for those residing in the area.

This is particularly true for families where both parents are working. Driving to a physical location from a rural area can be a challenge for those families. Therefore, these children are often left out of easy access to literacy resources.

With its ability to travel, a bookmobile means more ground is covered and more of your community is served. Bookmobiles can be set up in smaller neighboring towns where access to a physical library is not possible. This allows children and adults to enjoy the benefits of the library without the burden of traveling to a nearby larger city.

Reach the Homebound

Similar to the scenario above, a bookmobile gives your community the chance to reach those who are homebound. This can be a game-changer for the elderly and those without access to transportation.

Bookmobiles can travel to nursing homes, schools, and other areas where these populations might reside, offering similar services as a physical library would.

Host Community Events

Far more than just a place to house books, bookmobiles are an excellent choice for providing access to community events for the underserved. Ideas for events hosted via a bookmobile include all of the following:

  • A Nutrition Class: Many underserved communities struggle to access the nutrients they need to live a healthy and balanced life. Bookmobiles can offer free nutrition courses to target a specific poverty cycle issue.
  • Language Classes: In many cases, libraries are one of the first bridges for immigrants looking to adapt to life in a new country. A bookmobile can travel to community areas with high immigrant populations to offer free language classes. This can help families adapt to their new surroundings while connecting them to a welcoming community.
  • Computer Literacy Classes: For those stuck in the cycle of poverty, lacking the necessary skills to acquire a job in the modern workforce can be detrimental. Bookmobiles can drive to centralized locations and offer computer literacy classes.
  • Resume Fairs: Another important task for those living in underserved communities is writing a resume and filling out job applications. This can be overwhelming for many who lack the experience necessary to navigate this process. Hosting a resume fair is a great way for a bookmobile to offer assistance to those looking for work.
  • Story Times: Studies have shown that reading aloud to children has a significant positive effect on their reading and cognitive skills. For underserved communities, hosting a mobile story time can be an excellent way to give young children a head start. This is particularly helpful in communities where literacy rates are low.
  • Resource Information Hours: A bookmobile can also serve the community by offering resource information hours. During these visits, a staff member can help connect those in the community to free resources. This might include anything from information about local food banks to helping a new mother access information about WIC.

As you can see, there are many wonderful options to explore when it comes to creative community uses for your library’s bookmobile. The mobility of these units makes them ideal for reaching large portions of your underserved community with valuable resources.

Roaming WiFi

In 2020, everyone learned the importance of WiFi access for all. However, the cost of broadband is simply out of reach for many families. In 2019, according to Microsoft, approximately half of all Americans were not connected to the internet at broadband speeds at home.

During the pandemic, many children were forced to switch over to remote learning. However, without the right access to the internet, this became an impossibility, putting many kids at risk of falling behind in their studies.

Furthermore, adults who needed access to the internet to work or apply for jobs were also placed in a bad situation.

This lack of high-speed internet access for low-income families has become known as the digital divide. Unfortunately, the digital divide can have lasting ramifications for these families. The divide can create a huge issue in terms of equality for underserved communities.

The good news is that bookmobiles can be outfitted with hot spots, providing much-needed internet access to these areas. This is hugely beneficial in regards to remote learning, continuing education, and access to online resources.

Customize a Bookmobile for Your Community Today

The wonderful ways that bookmobiles can benefit children and adults in underserved communities is immense. From hosting language classes to providing internet access to low-income families, a bookmobile is a resource center on the go.

If your library is interested in customizing a bookmobile for your community, talk to our team at Summit Bodyworks. We are passionate about ensuring that underserved communities are provided equal access to education, resources, and more. We look forward to helping you create the perfect unit for your community’s needs.