Photos courtesy of Kenosha Public Library
Kenosha Public Library Utilizes 2 LDV-Built Bookmobiles as Part of Outreach
Kenosha, Wisconsin is a Midwestern city set along Lake Michigan with an interesting assortment of attractions. In the warmer months, visitors can browse the fresh produce, baked goods, and crafts at the Harbor Market or visit the Southport Light Station Museum to get a view from the top of an actual lighthouse. Ride through downtown Kenosha and take in the sites on one of the historic trolley cars. Is fishing more your speed? With the highest catch-per-hour rate in the entire state of Wisconsin, maybe you’d prefer to find a spot to cast a line. With numerous other stops such as the Civil War Museum, nationally-known Frank’s Diner, and the historic Kemper Center, there is no shortage of activities to draw interested tourists and locals to the Kenosha lakefront.
For the last 100 years, another esteemed establishment has been piquing the interest of the local population, the Kenosha Public Library. One of the services Kenosha Public Library prides itself on is providing a robust outreach program to their patrons. With two LDV-built bookmobiles as part of their program, each vehicle brings a different set of strengths to the library and its staff while at various stops and events. Their first LDV-built vehicle is a Ford F59 with a wheelchair lift, Acore shelving, and four book carts which they took delivery of in early 2019. Their second is a Ford Transit with a 1,300lb. liftgate, four singled-sided bookcarts, and Acore modular aluminum bookshelves which they picked up in April of 2020.
Marcia Siehr, Head of Outreach Services at Kenosha Public Library, was quick to point out the advantages of each vehicle. Their step van, which is dubbed “the Book Truck,” has allowed the library to add additional stops their coach bus was too large for before. This has increased the amount of people they can service.
Siehr highlighted the cart system LDV engineered to maximize how many they could have on board. With a desire to store four carts but only enough room for two, LDV’s engineers designed a way to accommodate Kenosha Public Library’s needs. These carts are an invaluable component to the bookmobile, as it allows them to prep materials for stops a day or two in advance and swap out the carts as needed depending on who they are visiting that day.
On their Ford Transit, the library made sure a special lift was included to accommodate their “Charlie Cart.” A Charlie Cart is a mobile kitchen with a sink, convection oven, and the tools needed to provide health literacy and cooking demonstrations. Because of the weight of this piece of equipment, integrating a lift was a must.
“LDV is a really great partner, asking the questions and figuring out how to get what we need into the vehicle. I would definitely recommend them to other libraries because of the attention to detail. LDV is a partner in making sure that the final vehicle is exactly what we needed,” said Siehr.
The library has been easing back into more traditional bookmobile stops since September with COVID guidelines in place. While they can only have one person or one family unit on board at a time, the Book Truck has proven to be a great resource and has worked out well for the school stops they have been able to attend. With some lobby stops still closed, the library has transitioned those patrons into home delivery which the van now carries out three days a week.
When the pandemic ramped up in the spring, the library was off the road except for a few outdoor events. One of these was “Book Truck Boogie” which was an outdoor dance party that got people out and moving while socially distanced. Another event the vehicle was able to participate in involved teaming up with the local barbershop. Kids were able to choose a donated book to read to the barber in exchange for a free haircut. Afterwards, the children were able to keep their book.
“The wrap is beautiful and makes the library so visible to patrons out in the community. We love using the book truck especially when we go to parks or anywhere there may have been parking constraints for our larger coach,” explained Siehr.
If the last year has taught us anything, it’s that adaptability and versatility are invaluable traits to have. That’s why Kenosha Public Library is so thankful to have two vehicles that can easily adapt to suit rapidly changing needs.
Kenosha Public Library took delivery of their Transit van in April while the library was only operating curbside service. This extra time without patrons gave their staff ample time to get their WiFi service going inside the van. The library then used community data to find what areas of the community had the least access to broadband internet.
The Transit van became a WiFi hotspot for these areas, making three stops a day Monday through Friday at different locations such as the Salvation Army, Boys & Girls Club, and schools for a total of 15 two-hour stops. Once at the stop, the library puts out a sign letting people know free WiFi is available and that they also accept returns.
“I love how versatile both of our vehicles are. We have used them in ways we didn’t necessarily anticipate because of how 2020 was, but they were built so well that we could reestablish our priorities and use the vehicles in new and inventive ways. I’m so thrilled and excited about what we can do in the future,” said Siehr.
Is your organization looking for the same versatility the Kenosha Public Library enjoys? Call LDV today to speak with an outreach sales specialist to find out how to expand your outreach even further.