Library director wants to make Lake Oswego mobile book program a mainstay
Following an eight-week pilot program, Lake Oswego Public Library Director Melissa Kelly expressed confidence that the city's mobile book program, Rover, will become a permanent facet of the community.
The library hosted 14 pop-up Rover events at two locations this summer — two were canceled due to heat — and Kelly was satisfied with how they went, though she acknowledged that improvements could be made. Data the library collected showed that there were 690 visitors, 820 items checked out and 27 library cards generated during the events.
"It went really well," Kelly said. "Of course we always want to reach even more people. We had a lot of visitors. We had consistently positive interactions and feedback from the folks we talked to at Rover."
The city created the pilot program as a way to bring the library to residents who are underserved or don't have an existing connection with it, as well as those who live on the other side of town.
Kelly noted that while the Westlake Park events led to more community interactions, the vast majority of library cards created and books checked out were at the Lakeridge location — which is further away from the library.
"We definitely felt we met our goal of meeting people where they are. That was one of our goals of doing this pilot … we wanted to get outside of the library walls, connect with people in the community and show people what the library has to offer. We felt we were successful in that," Kelly said.
Further, a community survey showed that the vast majority of Rover visitors said that providing the pop-up program was "very important" and respondents preferred keeping the program as opposed to extending library hours. More qualitatively, Kelly said library staff felt that the power dynamic became more level at the pop-up locations compared to the library.
"Of course we're always trying to have a really positive, welcoming interaction and so many folks do love our library for that reason — they feel welcome. We also know for some people, it's an institution. There is intimidation," Kelly said. "Being out in the community broke those barriers down. My staff kept speaking about that, that they felt they were making human-to-human connections. … It really opens the door for people to become library users."
One regret Kelly had about the pilot program was that staffers didn't survey residents about their socioeconomic status and other demographic data so they could gauge whether the program is serving underserved populations. She said the library hopes to do that in the future. She also said staff had hoped the program would have generated more library cardholders. Further, she plans to advertise the program in other languages in the future, noting that a Spanish title was one of the most popular books checked out during the program.
"The city is developing resources to be able to do that more regularly ... to be able to reach folks that are not able to connect with us easily when English is the only language used," Kelly said.
While Kelly said the city is committed to making this program a mainstay in the community, she said funding will be key. The library needs its own truck after borrowing one from the Adult Community Center this summer, and staff resources may need to be shifted to allow for time to facilitate the program. She added that the library hopes to provide indoor and sheltered pop-up libraries in the colder months.
"We feel we have demonstrated there is a need for it and it's a really valuable way to connect people to the library. We're excited to continue this work. We have a staff committee working on this. They are all super jazzed to continue," Kelly said.
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