The Mobile Family Library is going from strength to strength, just one year after being saved from closure.
When the Department of Education and Children last year announced it was cutting the funding from the mobile library service and the junior library, the future looked bleak for both organisations.
But in September 2012 they came under the umbrella of the Manx Educational Foundation charity and were rebranded as the Mobile Family Library and the Family Library.
Now it is a charity rather than a public sector service, the Mobile Family Library, which serves the Isle of Man from its base within the Family Library building in Douglas, has more freedom.
It can offer some postal services and has also teamed up with Manx Blind Welfare to assist with an audio book service.
That’s on top of having 39,000 books available to take around the Island to people who may otherwise never get the chance to use a library.
Librarian in charge Sandra Henderson said: ‘We are constantly meeting people who value the service and don’t know how they would manage without it and this is very encouraging for us.
‘It makes for a very challenging and busy life on the Isle of Man, but we believe that everyone should have access and reap the benefits from it.’
She added: ‘Now that we are run as a charity, restrictions that used to prevent developments in partnership with other companies are no longer a problem, so we have become a postal service offering the sale of stamp books and a collection point for the post.
‘We also have an internet link-up donated by Sure.
‘We work in partnership with the Manx Blind Welfare Society to help partially sighted members of the Mobile use their MP3 versions of audio books, which are loaned via the Mobile Family Library.
‘We have opened discussions with local live-at-home schemes to reach out to potential customers who are not aware of our existence and resources.’
All of this is a long way from when the service began in 1968 as the rural library service, starting off with a converted Transit van!
In addition to Sandra, the service has a full time driver and two part-time staff to serve the Isle of Man.
The Mobile Family Library works its way around the Island over 10 different routes over a fortnight.
A database of all items in stock can be accessed via the laptop computer on board the mobile library.
Sandra said: ‘New customers are always told “if you can’t see what you are looking for, please ask as we have a vast stock back at base”, and we pride ourselves in being able to satisfy almost every request. ‘
Sandra travels out with the 28-foot vehicle three days a week to enable her to assess what the customers want.
‘This means that the stock reflects the interests and diverse readership of the Island,’ she said.
‘As we are not part of a bigger authority and do not have to share any stock, it makes for a rather special, almost bespoke, service.’
The Mobile Family Library also has an Iveco ‘mini mobile’ which it uses to operate its Home Library Service. This means books are delivered not only to people’s homes, but also into the Island’s many residential homes with a collection of mainly large print books.
‘This is an invaluable service to our community as none of the other libraries on the Island are able to offer this type of service,’ said Sandra.
For more information visit facebook and look up MobileFamilyLibrary or visit the website www.familylibrary.co.uk
The service can also be contacted via email: firstname.lastname@example.org
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