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Libraries on the move

Getting to the local library isn’t always easy for Australians living in regional and remote communities, when the nearest branch may be hours away. But with mobile libraries there to bridge the gap it makes life a little easier.

Whether it’s a local senior looking for a friendly chat, parents needing help with holiday activities, or a student rushing to print their latest assignment.

Here are just a few of the wonderful mobile libraries on the move across NSW.

Richmond Tweed Regional Mobile Library

Richmond Tweed Regional Mobile Library 

Richmond Tweed Regional Mobile Library

Providing connection, joy and a safe community space for over 40 years.

This custom-built book mobile carries around 9000 items to browse and borrow from Ballina to Byron, Tweed Shires to Lismore. ‘Much more than access to information… [it’s] a social connector for the community’, says Suzy Arthur-Smith. ‘The world may be turning digital but not everyone is on that ride yet.’

One lovely story Suzy tells us comes from Wollongbar, where the mobile library sets up outside the school. Some readers bring ‘cakes, biscuits, and tea along and chat the entire time. They even offer it to other mobile library visitors. When staff begin to pack up, they panic as they haven’t even considered looking for something to read yet!’ Suzy also recalls how they ‘have even taken the truck to attend the funeral of our first mobile library patron who was previously featured in the graphics on the side of the trailer to pay our respects’.

Riverina Regional Mobile Library

Riverina Regional Mobile Library

Riverina Regional Mobile Library

Locals say they couldn’t imagine life without it.  

What does an average day for this mobile library look like? Book club deliveries, aged care drop-ins and excited students. ‘Mobile libraries have long been recognised as an effective way of bringing libraries to people’, says Robert Knight.

For the avid readers in the community, book clubs are one way to keep in regular contact. There are around 92 book clubs in the area, many of which rely on the book mobile for their literary fix.

‘Each book club selects 10 titles at the beginning of the year’, Robert tells us. ‘Then they receive a book club kit including 10 copies of the same book, discussion notes, a DVD if the book has been made into a movie, and an audiobook of the title where available.’

Western Riverina Mobile Library

Western Riverina Mobile Library

Western Riverina Mobile Library

For readers living in isolated areas, this bookmobile means the world.

The bookmobile features an extendable pod for more space, LED lighting, television, sunshade, public wi-fi access, onboard computer access and over 4000 lending items, including books, DVDs, talking books and magazines.

‘Some of our members are housebound and rely on the service of the mobile to deliver their new books each week’, says Rina Cannon. ‘For people in smaller towns, the mobile library is their primary source of social contact.’

‘Each week, with her book deliveries, one of our patrons receives a bag of wool. She knits this into squares, which are joined together by the library’s Saturday knitting group to make blankets.’

Richmond-Upper Clarence Mobile Library

Richmond-Upper Clarence Mobile Library

Richmond-Upper Clarence Mobile Library

There’s something for everyone onboard this well-travelled library.

Free wi-fi, tech programs for seniors, storytime, and thousands of books to browse — there’s even freshly brewed coffee! ‘At some locations, it seems the whole village congregates when the mobile visits’, Gary Ellem tells us.

During the 2019–20 Australian bushfires, this book mobile transformed into a vital community outpost. Delivering water and food, blankets and clothing to families in need. ‘People were overwhelmed by the generosity of the communities who donated and very thankful for the mobile library.’

Port Stephens Mobile Library

Port Stephens Mobile Library

Port Stephens Mobile Library

More than just a book mobile, it’s a bustling community hub.

This mobile library pulls out all the stops, from Fern Bay to Fingal Bay, Mallabula to Karuah, Seaham to Wallalong.

Kris Abbott told us about how one reader, an older man, once borrowed about 50 books at the same time. ‘His suitcase was so heavy that he needed a wheelbarrow!’

‘Another one of our regular customers is confined to a scooter… [she] is unable to visit a static branch due to her mobility issues but can use her scooter to get to the mobile library in her suburb.’

Wollondilly Mobile Library

Wollondilly Mobile Library

Wollondilly Mobile Library

Readers come for the collections but stay for the company.

‘All mobile library patrons love a good yarn with our staff. They enjoy our collections and look forward to picking up their reservations… wherever we go, no matter what the weather, we bring sunshine to their lives’, Anniza Abdullah tells us. Librarians also enjoy chatting with families who have just moved to the area, as well as new migrants and citizens.

Every year Wollondilly has a tradition of coming together as a community to celebrate Australia Day at Picton Botanical Gardens. The mobile library is always sure to pull up for the fun — with storytime and treasure hunts for the little ones, and exciting giveaways for members.

Find your nearest public library here