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A bookmobile is a vehicle converted to serve as a mini library. The vehicle has shelves to hold books. It has a small reception place, as well as a small room for readers. These customized vehicles are used by library institutions to take books to readers in locations without brick and mortar libraries. Some of them are used in supplying books to people who cannot access libraries. Some advanced bookmobiles are equipped with computer systems for more services such as internet, audio files, and eBooks.
In Kenya, mobile libraries offer these services without charge. The initiative is by the Kenya National Library services, which was established in 1965. The institution has been in charge of the construction of libraries over the years. As expected, most of the Library buildings constructed are only found in the urban areas. The rural regions have not yet been taken care of in terms of static libraries. This is the main reason why the mobile libraries were introduced.
The idea of having a mobile library is not new. Decades ago, vans were converted to mobile libraries in 1977 by the government of Kenya with the help of donors. This was the start of a long history of mobile libraries, and so far, the libraries have served millions of people in both urban and rural areas. The mobile library has come in handy for the remotest areas that were using camels as bookmobiles. While the government is trying to make the mobile library a success, the process has not been without challenges.
The buses are quite expensive since they do not come designed for the library-on-wheels purpose. There is an extra cost to have them customized. Most of them are large buses with shelves to hold a couple of thousands of books. There is a small sitting space for people to read the books on the bus and a small reception for record keeping. These buses have computers and internet access for people with needs exceeding the stock of books on the library.
The operation of the bookmobiles is a simple one. The driver drives the bus to certain areas on specific days for people to read, borrow or return books. Since the services are free, borrowing is not encouraged because loss of books. The bus parks at designated places where all the people in that area can easily see it and quench their thirst for knowledge. There might be no static library in every small town in Africa but the bookmobiles operating in this continent have really reduced the need to travel far for a book. The mobile libraries are just the modern efficient ways to bring the books closer to the people and at little or no cost.