On the Road

Sarasota's New Pop-Up Library Makes It Easier Than Ever to Access Books and Technology

The library on wheels has dozens of resources and is headed to a location near you.

By Emma Moneuse September 12, 2023

The Pop-Up Library in action.

The Sarasota County library system boasts 200,000 cardholders who together check out more than 2.5 million items each year. Now, the library system is bringing its stacks to a neighborhood near you with its new mobile Pop-Up Library, a passenger van equipped with a collection of books and technology for residents of all ages.

The idea is to expand library services and adapt them to the needs of today's residents by making it easier than ever to access them. Particularly after the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic, library leaders realized that many residents face barriers that make it challenging for them to get to physical libraries. Some work long hours and can't make it to the library during normal hours, while others lack transportation or, because of age or a disability, might not be able to visit a library.

The Pop-Up Library cruises to different locations throughout the community, following a monthly event schedule and stopping at multiple sites around Sarasota County. Initial funding for the project came from the Library Foundation for Sarasota County and the William G. and Marie Selby Foundation, whose gifts made the new service possible.

The van has already begun its journey, making appearances at City Hall in North Port and the Old Miakka School House. Pop-up events are meant for both children and adults and offer services such as library card registration and renewal, the ability to check out or drop off materials, reading recommendations and free access to Wi-Fi.

After only a handful of events, the Pop-Up Library is already having an impact.

"We signed people up for library cards and connected books and readers," says library programs and partnerships manager Katie Dow. "We are confident the Pop-Up Library will become a fixture in the community, helping link residents to much-needed services.”

“Our goal with this library is to bring resources to adults and families that may not have the means to travel to their local library,” says Renée DiPilato, the director of libraries and historical resources. “With the Pop-Up Library, we can provide lifelong learning opportunities to all residents, despite scheduling or transportation challenges.”

Curious? The library on wheels will be at the Osprey Library and Sarasota County History Center on Saturday, Sept. 16, for a special open house. The festivities will include story readings, steel drum music, special exhibitions, crafts and demonstrations, and more. It's the perfect opportunity to show support for libraries, inspire kids to rev up their reading at the start of a new school year or simply reignite a love for books.

“Our system of libraries has an extensive collection, including books, movies, music and more," says DiPilato. "We have audiobooks and digital books that can be accessed through our app, but first, you need a library card. This could be a game changer by providing residents access to thousands of resources.”

The Pop-Up Library open house will take place 10 a.m.-2 p.m. on Saturday, Sept. 16, at the Osprey Library and Sarasota County History Center, 337 N. Tamiami Trail, Osprey. For more information, call (941) 918-4037 or click here.

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