The Oak Park Book Bike

Community Engagement team with the Paperback Rider

A scaled-back 2021 season

We’re planning a safe Book Bike season in 2021, with a focus on providing library resources and services to community members who may not be able to visit our library building locations. Unfortunately, we are not able to offer visits to block parties at this time. To make specific inquiries about Book Bike visits, email our team at communityengagement@oppl.org »

Why have a Book Bike?

Here’s how our Manager of Community Engagement 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.”

What the Book Bike delivers

Library materials, library cards & learning

Library staff who have been trained to safely operate the bike pedal 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 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 Manager of Community Engagement 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.”

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.

Small business stories: In 2017, we used the Book Bike to turn outward and amplify voices from the community. We intentionally reached out to local small businesses and shared their stories. See the small business stories »

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