Friday, 23 January 2015

Random Updates and Reminiscences

One of the small irritating problems that we encountered on the Reading Rocket (a children's mobile library) was accessing Derby City Libraries' library management system live from our lap-top. Mobile technology was still developing at the time, and although some authorities were using satellites dishes on top of their mobile libraries, our technicians considered that the expense of satellite dishes, their deployment time and reliability was not as effective as using an internet dongle. This meant that we could access the Derby City Libraries system and the internet over a mobile phone signal. This was great, most of the time, but there places in Derby that received poor signals and on occasions the driver of the Reading Rocket would have to move the vehicle a few feet up or down a street before we got good reception. It seemed particularly bad in places where we were near mobile masts, like if we we just too close.

It is quite remarkable, then to read this story of a mobile library in 1980s Colorado which not only could be the very first mobile library with an on-line computer, but perhaps also a very early example of WiFi. The signals between the Mobile Library modem and the library mainframe computer were by radio, meaning that library had to have its own frequency. More of the story can be found at:

It is really quite common for children's mobile libraries to be illustrated with pictures from well known book authors. The Reading Rocket was covered with illustrations from Nick Sharrat's book Rocket Countdown (Walker Books) This was all perfectly legal, we got help and permission from Walkers Books and Nick Sharrat himself came to officially launch the "Rocket" and I still have my signed copy of Rocket Countdown which Nick said he signed with Jacqueline Wilson's pen. During my field work I found examples of work by:

Chris Riddel (Manchester's Reading Voyager)
  Mick Inkpen's Kipper from West Sussex

and Little Rabbit Foo Foo by Arthur Robins in Stockport.

The attractiveness of a familiar picture or artistic style appears to draw attention to the vehicles, and perhaps gives some sort of clue as to the content, not ice creams or hot dogs! I have found this other example of the tradition going on in the Caribbean island of St Martin where a local author has allowed her character "Lizzie the Lizard"to be put on a mobile library that visits schools on the island. 

And here are some pictures of the Reading Rocket:

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