Friday, 14 August 2009

Lincolnshire Mobile Libraries

I visited Sleaford yesterday, which is an attractive, neat, clean town set in the Lincolnshire countryside and where there is a mobile library depot. The Lincolnshire mobile library service went through a major change about two years ago. Being a large rural county they had eleven mobile libraries generically servicing villages and rural communities. Some villages had trailer libraries visiting for a day at a time. Some rural customers had books taken into their homes by mobile library staff. Many of the stops were at village primary schools. When the service was analysed in its entirety, it was realised that a generic mish mash of stock on each mobile was not given enough choice and selection to each genre of customer, If customers come in Genre! The fleet was sorted out to specifically target certain people, and certain situations.

Each mobile is now specialised, either to be a local library substitute, or for home deliveries, or visiting care homes. Most significantly for me they have three vehicles dedicated to visiting primary schools, where the children come on board and choose books, and two underfives vehicles that go to nurseries and play schemes where stories and activities are told. All the mobile staff are timetabled to work across the scheme and work on each vehicle. They are expected to work one day with elderly people and another with underfives. Drivers also have to drive all the vehicles and cover each other when necessary . There is one relief driver who is part of the team and can be called on when necessary.

When the service changed, there was a large reshuffling of stock, the children's vehicles were stocked with books existing in the service, and from begging and borrowing from other libraries. All was achieved within the fleet budget. The fleet vehicles are leased, the livery is included with the package and old vehicles get replaced. The service also appears to have strong library and council support. The changes happened when the mobile fleet manager was appointed. The home visit vehicle was so successful that the council has paid for another. What impressed me was that all of this was achieved by thinking logically, using what was available and adapting it to need. There appeared to be no large blazoning of trumpets and flag waving with fancy and expensive vehicles. It initially appears to be a good, cost effective model. Whether literacy is purveyed with the books, and if the visits have an effect on the children is yet to be found.

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