I would like to introduce you to LiLi, the Nissan Cube at the center of Library Live and On Tour. The outreach service, provided by Fraser Valley Regional Library (FVRL) is going on its sixth year of meeting the community in the community. My typical morning with LiLi is visiting a shelter during breakfast, having coffee with the guests, and chatting about the local public library. With the help of a laptop and Wi-Fi, I can also issue library cards and access FVRL’s ILS to place holds for individuals.
The goal of the Library Live service is to introduce the public library to members of the community who may face barriers to the public library. What barriers? Shame and/or embarrassment of past fees on an account, lack of knowledge about what the library offers, and inability to get to the library are just a few.
With these barriers in mind, LiLi and I travel throughout the Fraser Valley (from Tsawwassen to Boston Bar), visiting shelters, food banks, treatment centers, correctional facilities and high schools to spread the library cheer and open the doors to the library. Assisting in breaking the barriers is FVRL’s Intro card, a low barrier library card that allows individuals without identification the ability to check out five items and access use of the computers.
In sunny weather, we stop by farmers markets, community events, and sometimes even party in parades. Clouds or not, everyday we meet people from all backgrounds and share the happenings of libraries. From borrowing “Things” from the FVRL Playground (ukuleles, Sphero robots, and telescopes!) to accessing eBooks and audiobooks online, and applying STEAM and researching skills, libraries are relevant to everyone. Library Live practices this principle by offering an experience. For those who meet LiLi and me on the road, there’s always an opportunity to try playing the ukulele, practice coding with the Sphero robot, or even read an eBook on one of LiLi’s tablets.
Over the years, the Library Live service has adjusted to staff changes and lessons learned. Emphasis on schedule flexibility to meet the community’s schedule, inclusion of local library staff, and adapting to social media, have allowed LiLi to be efficient and visible while bringing the library into the community. A flexible schedule and LiLi’s mode of transportation allow us to go almost anywhere in the FVRL system, which also compliments the community engagement work accomplished through each of FVRL’s libraries. Additionally, staff from FVRL libraries often join LiLi and me at events, providing a local connection and allows staff a way to meet the community who may not be in the library.
It is an ongoing circle. Library Live creates a bridge between the library and the community, building relationships in the community and then bringing these relationships into the library. The most cheerful moments happen when a man flags me down and hands me his new identification requesting an upgrade to the permanent library account, or hearing a women’s story of her latest read from the library, or how access to eBooks changed a man’s life because he fell in love with reading again.
Janeen Parent is the Community Development Specialist Fraser Valley Regional Library. Questions? Contact Janeen at [email protected]