The Oak Park Book Bike

As an extension of the library, Oak Park’s Book Bike (nicknamed the Paperback Rider) gives people access to the library outside of the three brick-and-mortar buildings. Visits to schools, apartment residences, neighborhood parks, block parties, local businesses, and summer camps happen all around town (weather permitting) each April through October.

Book Bike decorated for the Juneteenth parade with staff and board members posing

Thank you for another great Book Bike season! We love engaging with our Oak Park community. The Book Bike is hibernating for winter, but we look forward to seeing you out in the community in the spring!

What the Book Bike delivers (in addition to smiles)

Library staff members who have been trained to safely operate the bike, pedaling it to scheduled community events and outreach locations. The bike’s cargo hold is stocked with relevant materials—cookbooks and gardening manuals at the Farmers’ Market, for example, and children’s books at area park and daycare storytimes. 

Visitors can learn about library services and programs, use their library card to check out materials, and apply for a library card. The Book Bike cannot accept returns or paid fees.

Breaking down barriers to access

For a past summer’s block party visit, an Oak Park family requested that Braille books be included for their young son, who is visually impaired. “Having Braille books would enable him to be included in this fun event with our neighbors,” the resident wrote.

Happily, we were able to stock the bike with Braille books, including one on trains and buses—the boy’s favorites—and the family checked out every one.

“This is a big part of what the Book Bike is all about,” says Community Engagement Librarian Sarah Yale. “Breaking down barriers to access, getting books in people’s hands, providing opportunities for learning, highlighting our diverse collections, and being a good steward and listener so we can discover what needs exist in the community.”

Why have the Book Bike?

Here’s how our Community Engagement Librarian Sarah Yale put it:

“The Book Bike gives us the freedom and flexibility to take our library professionals, services, and resources to the streets, increasing our reach and visibility out in the community. By meeting residents where they are—whether it’s the Farmers Market, senior center, or community event—we make authentic human connections and engage with people in new and traditional ways.

“It’s a fun, personal, ecologically friendly tool for connecting with us, for regular users and for those who’ve had barriers to visiting. From storytimes to mobile checkouts and reference services, the Book Bike brings the library to you.”

Book Bike origins

The bike, crafted by Haley Tricycles in Philadelphia and shipped to Oak Park in April 2015, was funded by generous donations to the library’s Fallon Family Fund, a dedicated fund established to help the library deliver cutting-edge projects and resources for all of our community’s children. The original idea, which libraries in other cities like Seattle also have adopted, was developed by Chicagoan Gabriel Levinson in 2008. For years, Levinson rode his custom-built book bike around Chicago parks, handing out free books.

Affectionately nicknamed “Paperback Rider” in a community-driven naming campaign, the three-wheeled mobile library has been delivering resources and good cheer throughout the area, improving access to materials since the spring of 2015.

Stay current on news and new arrivals.