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Libraries on wheels

On November 19, the nationwide Reading Aloud Day will take place. Once again, numerous libraries throughout Germany will be hosting reading aloud afternoons for children and young people. But what about those who live far from the nearest library? This is where the mobile libraries come into play. Since the end of the 1920s, mobile libraries in Germany have left their mark on rural regions in particular. In 2020, a total of 83 mobile libraries with 97 vehicles were active (source: German Library Statistics 2020). They supply rural districts with over 1.7 million media annually (source: German Library Statistics 2020), they teach reading and media skills, and they serve as meeting places in the smallest communities.

Media for Everyone

The goal of mobile libraries is to provide people with media throughout the country and thus reduce the urban-rural divide in terms of library services. For example, mobile libraries work closely with educational institutions to ensure that all types of media are available during school hours. Priority target groups are people with limited mobility and/or in need of reading assistance: Children and young people, parents with small children, senior citizens, or refugees.

Bookmobile Cuxhaven
Bookmobile Cuxhaven. Photo: Bookmobile Cuxhaven District
Wolfenbüttel District Library Bookmobile.
Wolfenbüttel District Library Bookmobile. Photo: Ingrid Achilles
Bookmobile Wolfsburg.
Bookmobile Wolfsburg. Photo: Wolfsburg City Library

The Future of Mobile Libraries: Outreach with Escape Rooms, Maker Spaces or Third Places

Currently, many mobile libraries are looking at how they can adapt their services even more to the needs of the population. The Schleswig-Holstein library association, for example, is currently developing an innovative future concept to turn its 13 mobile libraries in the state into third places: open and communicative meeting places, reliable information centers and event venues in the communities. In the Berlin-Mitte district, there has been a "rolling learning workshop" for several years. The MakerMobil sees itself as a mobile creative space and provides the equipment for various projects: From 3-D printers to brush robots to video games. And the Wolfenbüttel Education Center's Bookmobile has also come up with something exciting: Several times a year, the traveling library is transformed into an Escape Room, where children can playfully tackle puzzles while exploring the Bookmobile and its media.

Just as the services offered by libraries are constantly expanding, so are those offered by mobile libraries: whether it's media education, social projects or simply reading material. Mobile libraries are important mobile facilities, especially for rural areas.

Text: Kristin Bäßler

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