County Eyes Mobile Library Unit

SNOW HILL – Officials are hopeful a new mobile unit will bring library services out into the community.

The Worcester County Library is in the process of procuring a “branch on wheels” to carry books, issue library cards and serve as a wi-fi hotspot for the public.

“We envision the mobile library unit as a ‘branch on wheels’ that will help us meet people where they are—at community fairs and festivals, farmers markets, and school events,” said Jennifer Ranck, director of the Worcester County Library. “It will also enable us to serve people who might not be able to easily visit their local library.”

The Worcester County Library was awarded a $100,000 American Rescue Plan Act grant by the Institute of Museum and Library Services through the Maryland State Library for the mobile unit. Ranck told the Worcester County Commissioners this week that wasn’t enough money to purchase the unit, however.

“Unfortunately I did ask for a bit more,” she said. “We weren’t fully funded because I wasn’t the only library to have this idea to request a mobile library unit.”

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She said the library was seeking approval to use $75,000 in unspent funds from the fiscal year 2021 budget to help with the purchase.

“I think it’s a great idea,” Commissioner Josh Nordstrom said.

The commissioners voted unanimously to approve the budget encumbrance.

Library officials are currently reviewing vehicle models and features in order to determine the most cost effective options for Worcester County. Ranck said that she and her staff had talked about a mobile unit for several years, but the pandemic highlighted the need for one. Though the library offered “library to go” services, virtual story times and began circulating laptops and WiFi hotspots, there were still county residents who weren’t reached.

“We were able to deliver activity kits to various long-term care facilities in the County, but knew our connection to some users was limited,” she said. “This mobile branch will help us stay connected and expand access beyond our library buildings.”

About The Author: Charlene Sharpe

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Charlene Sharpe has been with The Dispatch since 2014. A graduate of Stephen Decatur High School and the University of Richmond, she spent seven years with the Delmarva Media Group before joining the team at The Dispatch.