Sunday, June 29, 2014

A Bicycle-Powered Mobile Library in Portland

If you live in Portland, Oregon, you might've seen Streetbooks. Around since 2011, Streetbooks is a mobile library that serves the homeless community in the city.
The Streetbooks bicycle-powered mobile library.
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Streetbooks was started by two Portland residents: Laura Moulton, a writer and artist, and Sue Zalokar, a writer and musician. Their mission was to "provide good literature, and conversations about literature, for those who are often pushed to the margins." Unlike a traditional public library, Streetbooks does not require patrons to show proof of address or ID before they can check out books.

Essentially a library cart mounted on a bicycle, Streetbooks makes the rounds around Portland three days a week. On Mondays, it can be found at R2D2 (at NW 4th and Burnside) and Skidmore Fountain; on Wednesdays, St. Francis Parish (SE 12th and Oak Street); and on Fridays, NW Park blocks, which include Elephant Park and Bud Clark Commons. Its hours are 10 AM to 1 PM.
The book selection offered by Streetbooks.
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Members of the city's homeless community who wish to check out books are issued an official Streetbooks library card. They approach Streetbooks and select the books they want, and the Street Librarian on duty simply uses "an old-school library pocket and a card the patrons sign and leave with us," according to the Streetbooks website. The Street Librarians in charge of Streetbooks notice that, more often than not, the library users return the books to them.

Patrons of Streetbooks are invited to be photographed with their selections, and these photos and their stories, are shared on the Streetbooks website. So far, there are over 60 pages of photos of patrons and their personal stories on the website. Clicking through each of them, it's easy to get absorbed in these stories. Moulton and Zalokar noted that "even though people were living outside or in shelters, it didn't mean that they weren't educated, articulate, and looking for intellectual stimulation." Streetbooks strives to offer that to them.

A Streetbooks patron points to his book pick.
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Streetbooks was started with a Kickstarter campaign and a Regional Arts & Culture Council grant, but it is kept going with the help of donations. Anyone who wishes to donate to the project can send a check to Streetbooks, at P.O. Box 13642, Portland, OR 97213. You can also give to Streetbooks online by going to their PayPal donation page. All donations are tax-deductible (Streetbooks' tax ID number is 45-4081674), and all proceeds "go toward staffing the library shifts, maintaining the bicycle, and buying used paperbacks for the library," according to the Streetbooks website.

Talking about Streetbooks, Moulton told the Portland Tribune, "I could have parked a car and opened my trunk. But this [bike] is eye-catching. People have to make a decision about stopping, and curiosity often trumps avoidance. Sustainability was certainly a consideration, with regards to relationships and accessibility to people."

To read more about Streetbooks, and to donate to the project, go to THIS LINK.

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