Converting a second hand mobile library into a travelling author road show - now that's not a bad idea
The Guardian newspaper recently ran an article asking if in the age of the ebook the mobile library is dead. It appears not. On the contrary I am very pleased to report that the mobile library is thriving and providing a much needed and valued service.
Mike Brook, treasurer of the Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals' Branch and Mobile Libraries Group, says that at the last count, in 2003, there were 656 mobile libraries in operation across the UK, down from 719 in 1990. And, it seems, the mobile library has moved with the times. Apparently those with onboard computers targeting residential homes and silver surfers are doing really well, and Birmingham city council's Words on Wheels has been a hit with the local schools. Remote rural areas always welcome the mobile library.
A mobile library typically carries 1,500-3,500 books, according to Mr Brook. 'Half of the stock is adult fiction, with the rest usually made up of popular non-fiction, such as gardening and cookery.' I know my own crime novels regularly go out on mobile libraries around the UK.
But mobile libraries it seems have a life after service. The actor Alec Baldwin – a native of Massapequa, New York – paid $1,000 for his local 'bookmobile' so he can use it as a children's playhouse. In the UK a brand new vehicle will cost as much as £120,000, but you can pick up a secondhand model for £2,000-£25,000, according to Joe's Garage in Harrogate, which specialises in renovating old mobile libraries. 'They are so adaptable,' says the owner. 'They're like Swiss army penknives on wheels. We even turned one into a mobile casino once.'
Now there's a thought. Not the casino bit, but I might need a new car if my dear old Ford Scorpio dies this year and I could replace it with my very own secondhand mobile library. This could carry stocks of my books for sale, provide a workplace for me when not travelling, and I could go on the road around the UK giving talks about my books to anyone who would care to show up. No need to worry about finding a venue, and I could take my novels to people in all sorts of places. I could even have it kitted out with a bunk or two, a small kitchenette, a loo and shower. And my husband, who used to drive fire engines, would be in his element - or perhaps not. Remind me not to have it painted red.