Ottawa Public Library plans to roll out $750,000 bookmobile in 2019

This Ottawa Public Library bookmobile vehicle, parked in front of the Overbook Community Centre, will be retired at the end of 2018. According to the city’s capital budget documents, it will cost $750,000 to replace the bookmobile over the next two years. /PHOTO BY OLIVIA ROBINSON


The Ottawa Public Library is set to replace an aging bookmobile vehicle in the next year, an investment, the library says, is long overdue.

According to the city’s 2018 capital budget, the Ottawa Public Library will spend over $750,000 on a new bookmobile over the next two years, in order to maintain its current schedule and not to limit service to its community.

The city of Ottawa’s operating resource budget for 2018 set aside $155,000 again in this year on fleet services, a 0 per cent change from its 2017 budget, however an analysis of the Ottawa Public Library library’s tax-supported documents reveals the city is instead reducing its spending on fixed assets by $224,000 so that it can offset the high repair costs associated with the bookmobile procured in 2005.

Additionally, the city will still foot the bill for a new, $750,000 bookmobile, according to its capital budget. The library details that $150,000 will be spent on the new vehicle in 2018, with the remaining $600,000 to be doled out the following year.

“The cost is based on a previous bookmobile purchase in 2015,” said Anna Basile, Division Manager at the Ottawa Public Library of the bookmobile’s price tag.

Basile said that there are many outside factors to consider in the bookmobile purchase, such as inflation since the last time a bookmobile was purchased, and the value of the Canadian dollar compared to the American dollar since the bookmobiles are purchased from the United States.

Coun. Marianne Wilkinson, an Ottawa Public Library board member who sits on a special bookmobile sub-committee said that patrons would have limited access to library services were it not the four-wheeled library’s visits.

“We want to make sure that these Ottawa Public Library services are accessible to as many people as possible. And that’s not just an actual library,” she said.

Since 1953, Ottawa has been rolling out upgrades to its bookmobile program. Its current fleet consists of two campers and one-minivan. Through the bookmobile service, patrons can access WiFi, a mobile makerspace, DVDs, as well as a large selection of books English- and French- language books. The campers are custom-built, complete with specialty shelving units, book trolleys, and a check-out desk.

Source: Report to Ottawa Public Library Board: Alternative Services Delivery Framework 2016-2020 (September 14, 2015)

The Ottawa Public Library’s bookmobile program runs from Monday to Saturday and makes 25 stops during the week. Some rural stops include Vars and Carlsbad Springs, where residents would otherwise have to drive almost 20 kilometres to reach a library branch, far beyond a walkable distance.

“We examine stop locations approximately every two years, and recently launched three new pilot stops in vulnerable communities,” said Alexandra Yarrow, Manager of Alternative Services at the Ottawa Public Library in an emailed statement.

Ottawa’s aging population is considerable cause for concern that the bookmobile program be fully operational, said Wilkinson. The soon-to-be replaced bookmobile is in constant need of repairs.

When the bookmobile breaks down, the service is temporarily replaced by one of the library’s minivans, or mini-bookmobiles. One of the main issues in replacing the bookmobile with the minivan, is that unlike the bookmobile, the minivan is not wheelchair accessible, said Wilkinson.

In a Nov. 7, 2017 report submitted by Monique Désormeaux, Deputy Chief Executive Officer of the Ottawa Public Library, the library stated that the new bookmobile will “promote literacy and learning through programming.”

Wilkinson echoed the library’s position that the bookmobile program is also essential to bring library services to low-income housing and immigrant families.

“We are trying to encourage reading. It’s important for children to get them to learn the language,” Wilkinson said.

The new bookmobile will be put into circulation sometime in 2019.

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