The Librarian and the Hot Rod Shop

What do you get when you cross a librarian with a hot-rod shop? Sounds like the beginning of a joke, but it isn’t. A provincial Libraries and Literacy grant and a directive to ‘create a mobile initiative to promote adult literacy’ was the beginning of Fraser Valley Regional Library’s (BC, Canada) Library Live and On Tour, the first project of its kind in the library world and a literacy advocacy tool like no other.

Instead of the partnerships that libraries more commonly make—with other non-profit organizations—Library Live and On Tour ventured into the world of enterprise and found the most unlikely literacy supporters: guys with tattoos.

When it became apparent that the traditional go-to library mobile initiative—a bookmobile—was not a practical or affordable option, FVRL was challenged to be creative with resources and ideas.

The result is a mobile initiative that delivers the library to people who do not know about our libraries or have some obstacle to visiting them. Unlike bookmobiles, Library Live and On Tour stresses service through community development, access to information, adult literacy advocacy, and awareness, rather than being exclusively about books.

The project is an exercise—in large part—in shattering stereotypes of libraries, librarians, and literacy. The centrepiece of the initiative is a highly noticeable and surprising little vehicle (LiLi) with very un-library-like enhancements, like a kick-ass audio system with external marine speakers, custom sub box, on-board amps/inverters/power sources, built in XBox 360 Kinect, wireless microphone system, multi-color underglow lighting, mag wheels, AOOGA horn, 2-3G Internet-connected laptops and 'gadget bar' (3 different eReaders, 2 tablets, Playaway books, Daisy player).

LiLi has been on the road for a little over one month. In this time, the numbers look like this:
· Fines waived: approx. $1000
· Community Events: 17
· Books given away: approx. 200
· Library cards issued: 16
· Community stops (food banks, shelters, transition houses, social programs): 14

Library Live is currently booked for more than 63 events between now and the end of the year and innumerable community stops.

— Smitty Miller, Fraser Valley Regional Library Community Development Librarian (aka known as Tour Manager)