The Mobile Library Bringing Books to the ‘Burbs’ and Beyond

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The Tauranga Mobile Library delivers library services to the City of Tauranga, 6 days a week.

The Tauranga Mobile Library delivers library services to the City of Tauranga, 6 days a week.

Doctor Who has her Tardis. The big blue box that flies through Time and Space.

“It’s bigger on the inside!” everyone exclaims.

Aided by the Tardis, Dr Who and the companions are forever fighting baddies threatening Earth. And here in Tauranga we have the equivalent – the Mobile Library. It’s also a big blue box!

It flies (well, drives to the speed limit) through time and space to deliver library services to the City of Tauranga, 6 days a week.

It’s not really bigger on the inside, but the range of books, DVDs, magazines and audiobooks it carries is – well, surprisingly big!

And the Mobile Library team fight modern-day baddies that threaten our community – social isolation; reduced literacy and traffic congestion.

Convenience and Community Service

Tauranga City has grown enormously in the 20 years the current Mobile Library Bus has been on the road. Suburbs have sprung up that didn’t exist 20 years ago and the population has increased by thousands.

For many people, there isn’t a local library that’s easy to get to. Which is why the bus goes to them.

A typical day might see the Mobile Library visit a school in a low socioeconomic community, where children have few books at home and parents have limited transport options to take them to a library. Then on to a Retirement village, bringing resources to older people who may no longer drive or see well.

Community Stops service the suburbs. It’s common to see bikes outside, from families who’ve ridden a short distance from home.

Prams and dogs outside the bus are also a familiar sight.

At the mobile heart…

The heart of the Mobile Library is the staff: Janine, Julie, Geoff, Hanna and Dave love their jobs.

They see around 2000 people on the bus each month, and know many of them well.

The Mobile Library bringing books to the ‘burbs’ and beyond There’s a lovely feeling of informality and community aboard the bus. Music plays – if a customer mentions a particular song Hanna finds it on her phone and plays it, which has led to impromptu dance parties! (and a disappointed customer a week later who came on and said “Where’s the music? My sister told me there was dancing on this bus!”).

Geoff worries if regular customers don’t appear, and sometimes knocks at their door to see if they are okay. They put aside books and DVDs they know particular customers will enjoy, and swap material between the Mt Maunganui Library and Mobile Library to keep the stock fresh and updated.

But it’s not just the human customers that enjoy the service. Julie received a Christmas card from a cat who adopted the bus and she and Hanna performed open mouth surgery on a customer’s dog – Julie held the baby; the customer opened her dog’s mouth; Hanna wielded the handle of the fork to un-wedge a stick from the roof of the dog’s mouth.

“If dogs could look grateful, that one certainly did” remarked Hanna. As we become more aware of the effects of loneliness and social isolation; the Mobile Library brings human contact and library materials to the people of Tauranga.

It continues the work public libraries have always done – ensuring that people have access to information, education and recreation, regardless of where they live and what they earn.

By Michelle Anderson – “I write for Bay Waka because I am passionate about libraries and initiatives that contribute to our community.”