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Our bookmobile trip is over and we are back to our respective day jobs. However, there are still some stories we couldn’t leave behind so we’ll be posting a few more items over the next few days. Here’s the first one:
Our visit to the Hoopa library on the Hoopa Valley Indian Reservation was unforgettable. We drove from Arcata to Hoopa around 8:30 in the morning. The weather was just about to turn to fall so we could feel a crispness in the air as the sun shone through the pine and cedar trees. The road (Rtes 299 and then 96) to Hoopa is incrediblly beautiful.
The library was small but well organized. Despite it being early morning, quite a few community members gathered at the library to see the bookmobile or to use the library. We could tell the community was tightly-knit because everyone knew each other and no one was a stranger to them.
One of our bookmobilista speils has been that anyone can download anay of the hundreds of thousands of books (the goal is 1 million!) free of charge; we thought that was universally a good meassge. However, Several Hoopa community members mentioned that not many people in the valley had computers and those that do have uneven internet access at best via the phone line. The library has 4 computers with DSL but the librarian mentioned that the internet connection was spotty and so she recommended that users get a magazine to read while waiting for larger files to download. As we’ve said previously, the digital divide is unfortunately alive in rural communities across the US. So a digital bookmobile was not the optimum solution for this community.
Regardless of their level of access to the information highway, in Hoopa the library IS at the center of their community and the community knew and cherished that — that’s the dream of every librarian! We interviewed several community members about what they thought was the role of the library in their community. Ms. Hayley Hott gave a particularly passionate response (see below).
Many librarians are struggling to know about the community that they serve, but we felt that this library was truly a success story. It might not be the largest collection or have an abundance of facilities, but it is loved and highly-used by everyone in the valley.
Our 2 week bookmobile trip has finally wrapped up with our last stops today in Willits and Ukiah (both in Mendocino county). We just got home to San Francisco. We are not able to write all our thoughts but we can tell for sure it was truly fun and learning experience.
We learned about the crucial roles that libraries play in rural communities. For many communities, the library is not just a place where you can check out books; it is the social, cultural and educational hub and more. People come to the library to join writing and knitting groups, book club, to fill out resumes and apply for jobs, submit their taxes, surf the Web, and on and on. It’s been great to visit those 11 libraries over the last 2 weeks to see in person the central role that libraries play in their communities — despite the budget cuts, staff shortages, lack of tech support, knowledge and infrastructure. Academic libraries could learn a lot about building and sustaining communities simply from observing small, rural libraries.
We’ll write more tomorrow, and will post more flickr images as soon as we get a new camera cable (which I lost somewhere between Blue Lake and Willits 🙂 ).
Day 11 was one grueling day – driving and setting up/breaking in Hoopa Indian Reservation, Blue Lake and Eureka for the Oysters & Ale library benefit for WiFi. When we got back to the Arcata hotel around 9:30pm we were so tired that we decided to have a blogging/flickr-ing moratorium. It was worthwhile since we had a full day of excitement and interesting conversation with community members. We can’t wait to blog about it when we get back to San Francisco.
6:20am this morning we got woken up from a sound slumber by a call from the front desk telling us that the bookmobile was about to get towed to make room for the Saturday farmers’ market. James as the official bookmobile driver, got up, threw some clothes on and stopped the Man from towing us. Whew! Nobody can tow the bookmobile!!
Now we’re up and on our way to Mendocino for a day at Willits and Ukiah before heading home. We’ll wrap up the goings on these last two days tonight or tomorrow. Stay Tuned!
Fortunately we got our pimped out (or at least with a new radiator!) bookmobile back from the mechanic today just in time for our visit to Humboldt County Library in Eureka. The library building looked like a beautiful retreat place where you can smell of ocean.
Eureka has quite a different community compared to other libraries that we’ve visited on our tour. Many of the people we talked to already knew about Internet Archive (or Project Gutenberg) as well as issues of public domain. This is the first time it’s happened to us over the last 10 days. We were at the library for 5 hours and a stream of people stopped by the bookmobile and gave kudos for our work. We didn’t even need to talk about the importance of the public domain and why community has to support their local library. It was easy to see how much the community supports their library. Many library staff came out to see our bookmobile including the new library director, Victor Zazueta. He told us that he believes the library is an educational institution and "poor man’s university."
While talking about open source software in the library, he mentioned that Riverside County Library and the City of Redding had contracted out the management and operation of their libraries to a private company called LSSI. It’s shocking to hear about a library being managed by a private company. This is wrong on so many levels. The library is an integral part of any community and we seriously doubt that a private company could appreciate those roles as their main goal is making profit, not providing local history, education, knowledge commons, and cultural space. Victor told us that at Riverside, there were high school students working the reference desk. What a shame.
After breaking down the bookmobile we visited the library’s local history and special collections. This is one of the most beautiful local special collections we’ve ever seen. The room was full of local history that are used by community members, historians, and scholars. We wondered if this collection would exist if the library were being managed by LSSI. Our two main messages this entire trip has been the importance of the public domain and supporting local public libraries. We hope our message resonates with each community that we’ve visited.
Tomorrow is our big day. We have 3 places scheduled – Hoopa, Blue Lake, and the Oysters and Ale Library Fundraising in Eureka. This will be fun and crazy! For more photo please check here.
This is bookmobilistas in action. Please check it out.