Study of Mobile libraries in Clwyd, 1990, by Ian Dyson
This was written from the point of view of rural services. Dyson spent a day each on two of the mobiles from Clywd's fleet of nine talking to staff and customers. In this respect he conducted an ethnographic observation, taking note of representative comments from the customers. He noted that the ethos of the mobile library service was different to that of static libraries. They provided a greater social service that just being a library delivery service. They were focal meeting points for small communities, the operators performed other functions, taking books into people homes during snowy conditions, giving help and advice, answering queries, local knowledge.
He considered other types of library provision, and compared advantages and disadvantages. Cost of service per head of population appears to be the major consideration when authorities are auditing such provision, but Dyson argues that they do not take all the factors into consideration. A part-time library in a rural location could be flexible with opening hours, but cost more by purchase of a building and a proportion of static stock. Sharing a premises and therefore cost is possible, but takes effort to negotiate with other bodies. An example of shared premises is having a library in a school, which Clwyd did, however, charges were introduced that made the situation too costly. It is interesting to note that in recent years libraries are again going into other buildings, for instance in Derby city and somewhere else that I heard of recently has one in a community centre.
Dyson discusses the pros and cons on trailer, van and container libraries, which were good value. The drawbacks for that sort of provision is the time taken to take the out to stops, and customer access. He approaches the idea of busing the elderly customers into static libraries where they could socialise as a cost effective excersise. He also highlights the plight of rural children, they may be in school when the mobile library calls. He suggests that school library service provision could be increased but realises that if more money is put there then it decreases elsewhere. He thinks that their ever growing needs should be considered with urgency.
The arguments that mobile libraries have such a limited book stock are dispelled by Dyson relating to comment of one customer who stated her preference for the mobile library over the nearest static one because she know where to find what she wanted in the mobile library, but got lost in the larger branch library. He goes on to illustrate that a smaller selection of stock does not always mean less borrowing. When one of the local libraries needed to remove stock to barcode them for a computerised system, spaces in shelves were filled by face on book display, and issues increased.