Grant may lead to ‘pop-up libraries’

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The New Hanover County Main Library on Chestnut Street in downtown Wilmington.
The New Hanover County Main Library on Chestnut Street in downtown Wilmington.

A federal grant recently awarded to the New Hanover County Public Library system could lead to expanded mobile services that look like “pop-up libraries.”

The local system won $11,250 in the form of a Library Services and Technology Act EZ Literacy and Lifelong Learning grant. The funding was made possible through the federal Institute of Museum of Library Services, who then gave it to the State Library of North Carolina to distribute.

According to Susan DeMarco, New Hanover County Public Library’s outreach supervisor, the money will go toward a new program that would increase accessibility to the library’s resources.

“Our intention for using the money is to create what we’re calling pop-up libraries,” DeMarco said. “We basically want to take books to different parts of town, but we need the money to purchase the technology to help us do that.”

The library already has a vehicle to carry around books, which is currently being used for its Adult Library Outreach for the Homebound and Aged (ALOHA) program. What they need, said DeMarco, is a new laptop and scanner to help them issue library cards on the spot, as well as carts to help move the books around and a tent so they can set up rain or shine. They would also need to purchase a wifi hotspot so they can connect to the internet wherever they are.

“The other hope is to get a handheld tablet to show how to use the e-resources we have,” DeMarco said. “We want to be able to show people how to download e-books so they can use them.”

As part of her outreach through ALOHA, DeMarco currently goes to retirement homes and assisted living facilities to provide books. The new program, which is yet to be named, will differ in that it will serve people of all ages and will visit different areas.

“Our thought right now is to go to parks, especially in the northern part of town, as well as schools, many of which have been asking for our services,” DeMarco said. “We’re going to go wherever we feel we can have the most impact and serve the most people in need.”

DeMarco said they are in the process of getting all the paperwork signed so the library system can receive the grant money (the county is also expected to contribute $3,750 for a program total of $15,000.) Once that happens, DeMarco said they will look into what specific items would work best for the program and begin the ordering process in the fall. They hope to have the mobile library fully up and running by next spring.

“[New Hanover County] is not that big, so no one’s really that far from a library [branch], but it’s still not that accessible for many people,” DeMarco said. “We want to be able to bring our services to more people in our community.”