How to Start a Bookmobile Business

Hands putting away library books

A bookmobile is a powerful tool for reaching people across vast areas. These vehicles can be driven to schools, offices, rural communities, and more to bring books to people that might not be able to visit a brick-and-mortar location.

Not only do bookmobiles make it easy to bring a collection of books to any location, but they are also a great fit for both libraries and private businesses.

Whether you are a library director working to expand your district’s reach, or a book store ready to increase your customer base, starting a bookmobile business is an effective way of achieving growth.

Check out the following tips on how to start a bookmobile business.

Begin with a Clear Plan

With any new business or business expansion, you should begin your bookmobile business with a clear plan.

This plan should answer all of the following critical questions:

  • What will be the main purpose of my bookmobile? This might be to offer library books to an underserved population in your community. Or it might include reaching customers in remote locations to sell an increasing number of books.
  • What is my budget for my bookmobile? The cost of Bookmobiles ranges not only in initial costs but also in operational costs. Be sure you have a clearly defined budget that includes the cost of the bookmobile build, as well as the cost for gas and upkeep. Additionally, don’t forget to factor in the cost of the personnel who will operate the bookmobile.
  • How will I measure the success of my bookmobile business? Success will vary dramatically based on the goal of your bookmobile. For a library district, success might be a certain number of newly signed up patrons. For a bookstore, success might be tied to a projected number of books sold. Regardless of what you aim to accomplish, be sure you set up a way to measure the success of your endeavor.

Having a clear plan defined for your bookmobile business is the first step toward success. From here, let’s take a look at how you will create profit streams with your new mobile unit.

Consider Profit & Funding Streams

Whether you are running a for-profit business or a non-profit library, you will want to consider how your bookmobile will contribute to the success of your business.

For a bookstore or other for-profit business, consider all of the following profit streams:

  • Book sales: This is perhaps the most straightforward use of a bookmobile for a bookstore. You can use your bookmobile to reach a larger number of consumers, thereby, increasing total book sales. Your bookmobile could be used to expand your reach to farmer’s markets, festivals, and other events, or you might use it to test out the potential for sales in future locations.
  • Author workshops: A bookmobile can be used to host author workshops. By requiring a fee for admission, your business can create a whole new profit stream, while also encouraging further book sales.
  • Classes: A bookmobile is a great way to host classes on a variety of topics, allowing you to gain a whole new revenue stream. For example, you could host a mobile class on nutrition. This is also a great way to cross-sell books on the same topic as the class.

For a library district, consider how a bookmobile might contribute to funding in the following ways:

  • Used book sale: Many libraries host events where they sell old copies of books that are being transitioned out of circulation. Consider using your bookmobile to create a mobile used book sale. This can help raise funds for your library, reaching patrons who normally might not drive to your brick-and-mortar location for a book sale.
  • Fundraising event: A bookmobile can be used by libraries to host pop-up fundraising events. Whether you host a community bake sale or a maker’s market, use your bookmobile to host library fundraisers.
  • Funding awareness event: This is an excellent way for those responsible for community relations to sign up new donors and raise awareness in the local community around library funding needs. Drive your bookmobile to a local festival or event and raise awareness around the library’s current efforts and future funding needs.

Customize Your Bookmobile to Be Multi-Purpose

As you look to start a bookmobile business, make sure that the vehicle you build is customized to be used for a myriad of purposes. Rather than simply a place to house books and allow patrons to browse shelves, design a bookmobile that is multi-faceted.

The following are all great examples of customizations that can help contribute to future uses of your new vehicle:

  • Computer lab
  • Makerspace
  • Exterior monitors
  • On-board WiFi
  • Built-in tables and meeting rooms
  • Classroom equipment
  • Outdoor awnings

There are countless ways to customize your bookmobile to make it useful for your business. Be sure to discuss all your ideas during the early stages of design to ensure that you end up with a vehicle that will serve you well for years to come.

Talk to Summit Bodyworks About Your Custom Bookmobile Build

If you are thinking of starting a bookmobile business, come talk to our team at Summit Bodyworks. We have over 30 years of experience customizing specialty vehicles. We can help you build a bookmobile that will not only help you launch a business, but will also allow you to expand as your business grows.

Interested in seeing the previous bookmobile builds from our team? Check out one of our latest builds, a bookmobile we designed for Fountaindale Public Library District. This bookmobile was designed on Freightliner M2 chassis and offers ample space for this library district to expand its community offerings.

Not only do we have years of experience assisting clients with their specialty vehicle builds, but we also are proud to provide premium customer service.

From the first moment you reach out to our team to discuss your needs to the day you drive away with your custom build, we will provide you with efficient, friendly service. Reach out today to learn more about starting your own bookmobile business