Winnipeg Book Bike
The two Rs: reading and riding
This past summer, the Winnipeg Public Library combined reading and riding with its book bike. Mobile libraries in bicycle form are becoming more popular in warmer regions, but in Canada, the trend has been slower to take off. Some cities opt to outfit a van or bus with bookshelves to bring libraries to residents. Bookmobiles have been a means of creating access to libraries’ services in remote areas for decades.
Winnipeg’s idea to use a bike was inspired by the library in Camrose, Alta., whose book bike was the first of its kind in such a chilly Canadian climate. According to Chris Laurie, an outreach librarian at the Winnipeg Public Library, the Manitoba capital used a local company to custom make a book bike with a lot of functionality.
“The book bike is a retro-style three-wheeler with the cargo space in the front,” he said. “It contains two shelves for library material, and opens up to create a display of books and space for our laptop.” With the computer, the librarian manning the bike can make up library cards, use the library catalogue to locate books and demonstrate online resources such as ebooks and audiobooks, streaming entertainment and online courses the institution offers.
The book bike was a success in 2016 and will expand its range this summer. The library will take “bookings” almost anywhere. “For the bike’s first summer last year, we attended the downtown farmers market, Central Park, Old Market Square, Broadway and other downtown locations as well as various locations in St. Boniface,” Laurie said. “It was a huge hit.”
“We carry a variety of current fiction and non-fiction books for adults, young adults, and kids,” he added. “And, we select materials on a theme that ties into the location. For example, if we are at a farmers market, we will bring books on fruits and vegetables, recipes, and pickling and preserving. If we are on Broadway near the food trucks at lunch, we will bring books on street food.”
Last year, Laurie was one of the staff who rode the book bike to its diverse destinations – an interesting experience, he said. “The bike itself handles extremely well, you just need to be mindful of it making wide turns,” he said. “And watch out for potholes.”
But how fast can you go on the bike?
“You actually can’t go quickly on the bike because so many people want to ask you questions about the bike and the library, and to take pictures,” Laurie said, hinting at one of the best parts about the book bike – the exposure it provides for the library. “Many people are curious about it and that’s a great opportunity for us to have a conversation with them, find out their interests, and then share relevant library information with them that they often know nothing about.”
“It contains two shelves for library material, and opens up to create a display of books and space for our laptop.”