Mobile library in the works for rural communities

By Lindsay Ducharme

Accessing library services is about to become far more convenient for rural residents, as the Fort McMurray Public Library recently announced plans to introduce a mobile library. The roving library will serve Anzac, Conklin, Draper Road, Fort McKay, Gregoire Lake Estates, Janvier and Saprae Creek Estates.

“We serve an urban population within a large area with a rural service area, so we felt that a mobile library would be the best way to get services out to our rural communities because we can’t just go around building buildings willy-nilly. A mobile library will have all the services of a small branch in a smaller footprint, but we can get it out to where the people are,” explained Carolyn Goolsby, executive director of the Fort McMurray Public Library.

“From the outside it will look like a very pretty bus, from the inside there will be rows of material. We will have things like books and audio books. We are designing a shelving system so we can roll out shelves and clip them into the sides so that for example if we are going to a community that has a high children’s population we can put more children’s books on, but if we are going to a community that needs more adult material, we can pull off some children’s and put another section of adults. It will have it’s own collection, meaning that we will have books set aside for the mobile library, it won’t just be what people in Fort McMurray aren’t checking out,” she continued.

Goolsby explained that while there are few mobile libraries in the province, they are gaining momentum and popularity due to technology advances. What was once simply a book delivery service now has the capabilities to offer the same services as a small branch including programming, rental services, and Internet access. The bus will also be able to comfortably seat 32 children.

While the library on wheels is not scheduled to be operational for about a year and a half, library staff has been busying planning and gathering input from rural residents. The library will be hosting public engagement sessions April 13th from 2:00 p.m.- 3:300 p.m. and April 16th from 6:00 p.m.- 8:00 p.m. at the Fort McMurray Public Library located at MacDonald Island, April 23rd from 4:00 p.m.-6:00p.m. at the Anzac Recreation Centre and April 29th from 10:00 a.m.-12:00 p.m. in Fort McKay, location to be announced. Goolsby said public engagement is essential in creating a successful, and useful, mobile library.

“We are hoping the public will come out and tell us what they want to see. Do they want fiction, do they want non-ficiton, do they want audio books, do they want Internet, what they want their mobile library to be? If we were to build a branch library in your community, what would you want in it? That’s what we will try to put on the mobile library every time it comes to you.”

“The engagement sessions are very important to our planning process, we want to make this mobile library useful and beneficial to the varying communities it goes to. Every community is going to have it’s own flavor and it’s own rhythm, so we really want to hear from the community. This is your library and this will be your mobile library. When it comes to Draper it’s going to be Draper’s mobile library, when it comes to Anzac it will be Anzac’s mobile library, it will be tailored to the needs and desires of each community, but to do that we need to hear from the communities themselves,” she stressed.

For more information on the mobile library, including public engagement sessions visit the website www.fmpl.ca