The end of the summer marks the end of an era for us, with the littlest Roaring Readers due to start primary school after the break. One of the things we will miss most about our pre-school afternoons together is fortnightly visits to the mobile library van.
We live in fairly remote village in the west of Scotland – almost an hour away from the nearest ‘proper’ library – and our own local authority mobile library stopped operating a few years ago. Luckily, we are close to the border with Stirling, which (in contrast to our own council) not only supports a mobile library service, it invests in it – so we benefit from their service instead.
A visit to the library van is something the girls always look forward to. The librarian is kind, welcoming and forgiving (of our noise, lateness and worse) and so our little readers have grown into bigger, more confident ones, who are comfortable browsing and selecting their own books, and thrilled when they are even allowed to date-stamp them for themselves.
We use the main library too, but there is an informality to the mobile library setting – especially since the arrival of shiny new vans with comfy pink seats – that is really special, and perfect for little ones who like to explore.
Our mobile library has introduced us to some of the children’s books that we now love best. Without its ever-refreshing shelves, we might never met Harriet Muncaster’s Isadora Moon, studied in enchanted oak trees at Glitterwings Academy (our eldest’s favourite fairy series) and discovered amazing picture books like Rachel Bright and Jim Field’s The Lion Inside (there were tears when we finally gave that one back).
We are not alone in benefiting from this wonderful service, which is about people every bit as much as books. The other library-users we meet and chat to are mostly either elderly, or mums and young children – and I think for all of us, a visit provides a positive activity and some adult company to break up a day that can sometimes be a bit lonely.
Some of our fellow library users don’t drive, or struggle with mobility, and for them, reaching the library building is impossible. Our librarian goes out of his way to help, with reading recommendations and book orders, a quick phone-call to let someone know that he’s on his way, or just allowing a little bit of extra time when it’s needed.
The social importance of mobile libraries across Scotland, and particularly in remote communities, was confirmed in a report the Scottish Library and Information Council published recently, which found that: “using mobile libraries gave people a sense of belonging in the community, and has a direct beneficial impact, particularly on the elderly in helping to reduce feelings of loneliness and isolation.”
An elderly user quoted put it better, when she said: “Living alone, I don’t actually speak to many people, so the mobile library is a friendly regular contact which brings a feast of reading as well as some human contact.”
Once the gang is at school, and I’m working, we won’t be able to use the mobile library as often, though we’ll definitely be back in the school holidays. In the meantime, this is a thank you to the Stirling Mobile Library Service for helping our love of books to blossom, and for being our favourite place to choose them.
Mobile Library Facts (from SLIC Libraries on the Move Report)
- There are 49 mobile libraries in 22 local authorities in Scotland
- There are 37,000 mobile library users
- Each van has an average of 2,500 items on board