The integral philosophy of any bookmobile library service, now more commonly known as mobile libraries is to provide a library service to remote communities who otherwise cannot always access our traditional library buildings. Like our branch libraries (nine across our three council areas in addition to our Outreach Van), the service is subject to budgets, grant funding, keeping up with community needs in terms of collection, technology, working with our colleagues at Councils and more.
Yarra Plenty Regional Library has always been proud of our mobile library service and it is an integral part of who we are and what we do. The very first bookmobile in Victoria began operating in May 1954 by the City of Heidelberg. Back then it was known as the travelling free library. In 1956, the stops included West Ivanhoe, Fairfield, Rosanna Fire Station and East Ivanhoe.
The Shire of Eltham and the Shire of Whittlesea soon followed with their own local versions and when the Shire of Whittlesea joined Heidelberg Library Service in 1976, part of that agreement was the contribution of their bookmobile.
In October 1985 the Heidelberg Regional Library Service became Yarra Plenty Regional Library Service after the four member councils, namely Diamond Valley, Eltham, Heidelberg and Whittlesea felt it was time to adopt a name reflecting the wide area we serve. As our communities grow and change it is interesting to look at the “stops” or local communities the mobile library has served. In 1977 stops included Eltham North, the YMCA at Macleod, West Heidelberg, Plenty, Yan Yean Road and Montmorency.
The Whittlesea bookmobile servicing the Shire of Whittlesea at that time stopped at Blamey Avenue Mill Park, Kingsway Drive Lalor, Bundoora Shopping Centre and Plenty Road, Bundoora as well as outside the craft shop at Kinglake. By 1986 the bookmobiles serviced 57 sites on a weekly basis from Kal Kallo to Kinglake to West Heidelberg. In 1987 a new state of the art bookmobile complete with semi-trailer replaced the two old vehicles.
A snapshot from the 1991 / 92 annual report reported that on a weekly basis the bookmobile visited 20 communities and towns in the region working a 6 day week providing 43.5 hours of service to the community. It is believed that the bookmobile provides the most extensive service of its kind in the state. Heavily used stops at this time were Mill Park, Diamond Creek, Bundoora Shopping Centre, Epping, Kinglake and Hurstbridge. In 1993 the bookmobile was repainted a bright yellow and green.
In February 2006 a brand new custom built mobile library was launched. The nineteen metre vehicle held more than 6000 items, three computers with free internet access via a satelite dish on the roof and wheelchair access. It had nearly 5000 members and loaned 107,000 items every year.
In April 2009 the bookmobile played its small role in returning a sense of normality to fire-affected areas following Black Saturday with stops at St Andrews and Arthurs Creek Primary School. In December 2011 re-branding took place with new décor communicating the many benefits of the library to the community.
Over the years the Mobile library has been spotted at local festivals including the City of Banyule Arty Farty Festival and the Whittlesea Community Festival . Preschoolers and Primary School students alike have enjoyed story times. In 2011 a second facelift of the outside decor took place featuring faces from our community.
In December 2017 came the announcement that two long term staff members were retiring. With over a combined 64 years’ experience working with YPRL, both Paul Ross and Alan Hatty have always been highly regarded by library patrons far and wide and will be greatly missed.
Across December and January YPRL’s mobile library underwent much-needed repairs and refurbishment. The outer shell of the mobile library has also undergone a transformation, and it is now sporting a fresh new look to make sure it stands out on the roads. As you can see, it certainly is eye-catching!
Everyone is welcome to visit the state of the art mobile library to borrow any of the 10,500 items in stock, including a wide range of books for all ages, DVDs, magazines, talking books and large print publications or access a computer with free internet and access the library’s electronic resources.
There is a celebration to launch the updated Mobile Library on Monday 26 February. You are welcome to come along.