Santa Barbara Public Library brings back books on wheels

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The Santa Barbara Public Library is reintroducing its mobile book, now called Library on the Go, for avid readers who haven’t been able to visit the library in person, in large part due to the pandemic.

“With the public health concerns regarding large gatherings likely to continue for some time, this model will also allow for an expanded reach outside the library building,” spokesman Erick Mendez said.

For the children of Santa Barbara, the arrival of the van is like a vacation. It’s loaded with custom book carts that can be removed and set up outdoors, with kids browsing through rows of children’s books, young adult titles, and graphic novels.

Librarians patiently walk children through the process of checking out their books, asking them if they have their own library card or kindly reminding them to return books they have checked out previously. As soon as the process is complete, children sit in the nearest seat and start reading while waiting for their peers to finish browsing.

Although the van is a big hit among youth groups, it also regularly stops at several senior living centers and the neighborhood navigation center, which provides resources for the homeless.


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Librarians make sure to organize the selection of books according to the destination of the van. He recently made an appearance at the Asian American Neighborhood Festival, so librarians have included material written by and about Asian Americans.

Molly Wetta, a senior librarian, said the purpose of the new van is to provide resources to communities that need them most and create a safe space for exploration. “We want this to be a place where people can ask questions,” Wetta said.

The van, which offers Wi-Fi, provides many of the same services as the library before the pandemic forced it to cut back on its offerings, such as early learning classes and kits, nutrition classes and readings. The van also checks Chromebooks and hot spots, microscopes and telescopes.

Taylor Benson, one of the regular librarians who runs the van, said the work allows him to bond with the people he meets, learning more about them each time. “Coming to the library is a conscious decision, but it’s easy to run into the van,” Benson said.

The Santa Barbara Women’s Fund provided $ 100,000 to get the van going, and an additional $ 150,000 from private donations.


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