If you’ve read Ian Sansom’s Israel Armstrong series, you’ll know that Armstrong is the librarian for Ireland’s Tumdrum and District region. What that amounts to in this very rural region is that he drives the mobile library, and, of course, delivers and picks up books. Some of his patrons really do live in the back of beyond, as the saying goes, and this is how they get their hands on books. Laurie Cass’ Bookmobile Cat mysteries feature Minnie Hamilton, who has charge of Chilson, Michigan’s bookmobile. She, too, makes books available in an innovative way. There are other mysteries, too, that feature mobile libraries, and it’s an interesting context. There are several possibilities for plots, and the small-town, rural, or remote setting can be very appealing.
The mobile library is a really effective way get books to people who may not live near a library, nor have easy transportation to one. In fact, the ‘photo you see at the left is of the bookmobile that serves part of the area where I live. It makes various stops at different places throughout the week, so that people who can’t get to one of our public libraries can still get books. There’s a twin-sister Spanish-language bookmobile in my area, too.
Of course, I live in a place with good roads and enough funds for a couple of bookmobiles. I thought it might be interesting to take a look at places where book lovers get their books in different ways. Some of these variations on the bookmobile theme are ingenious, and they make books accessible even for people who don’t live anywhere near a city or a suburb.
For example, this is a ‘donkey library’ in Ethiopia. It’s the brainchild of Ethiopia Reads founder Yohannes Gebregeorgis. Donkeys can travel on all sorts of roads that autos, vans, and so on can’t. So, the ‘donkey library’ is well-suited for a place where many people live remotely.
And here is Colombia’s own ‘Biblioburro’ library. Luis Soriano created this innovative approach to serving the reading needs of remote places in that country. Now, his two burros, Alfa and Beto (yes, those names are deliberately chosen) travel all over, making sure that people in rural areas can get books. Soriano’s been working on getting a permanent building for the library, but that project is still ‘in the works.’
Jambyn Dashdondog operates this children’s ‘camel library’ in Mongolia. Motor vehicles may have a difficult time getting around in the terrain of that area, but camels are tailor-made for the job. And that means that children who live in those remote places can get a chance to read books.
And then there’s this ‘horse library,’ the idea of Ridan Sururi. He and his horse, Luna, bring boxes of books around to some of the remote places on Java. The library patrons enjoy Luna’s company, and they love having books available. Sururi travels among villages, and also stops at area schools. He’s gotten his family involved in helping, too.
But of course, you don’t need to have a horse, a camel or a donkey to make books accessible to people. Many places now have ‘mini-libraries’ in trees, on boats, and so on. There’s even this ‘pop-up’ library on Sydney’s Bondi Beach.
What about you? Have you seen some really ingenious library ideas? Please feel free to share them. There are all sorts of innovative ways to connect book lovers with books! And, honestly, wouldn’t some of these places be really effective contexts for a mystery series?
*NOTE: The title of this post is a line from Athlete’s In the Library.