The Mobile Family Library service does much more than deliver books.
Whether it be using one of the vans to assist with shepherding sheep, the staff checking up on the wellbeing of regular customers when they don’t turn up at the usual time, or bringing books to the door of those who cannot make it out, the team behind the service is a focal point in community life around the Isle of Man.
Two years ago, the service, along with the Family Library itself, was facing extinction as a result of government cutbacks. It would have resulted in hundreds of customers missing out on their fortnightly visit.
However, after coming under the auspices of the Manx Educational Foundation and being run as a charity, the service has got stronger.
Every day is different and for the team of four on the Mobile Family Library: librarian in charge Sandra Henderson and Alan Ray, who both work full time, plus part time staff members Sally Hardman and Janet Moore, who runs the Home Library Service.
The work gets underway a long time before you see delivery van arrive at its first destination.
Operating on a fortnightly timetable, the services covers the whole Island. For many, it is a lifeline and the only chance they have to access new books or audiobooks.
This takes a lot of planning. Many of the customers put in requests and Sandra and the team always endeavour to deliver the goods.
Sandra explained from her office next to the Family Library in Westmoreland Road, Douglas: ‘There is much more to what we do than just turning up with the books.
‘We try to spot trends, we also respond to specific requests, and we make an effort to deliver what our customers want.
‘At some stops, there may be just a handful of regulars who come to visit, but at others, we are rushed off our feet. Our aim, always, is to make sure that we give the best possible service to everyone.’
To watch the team in action is to see a clear definition of service with a smile.
What becomes very clear when observing the team in action is that the Mobile Family Library is part of the community.
Customers are quick to praise the service.
Last year the Family Library and Mobile Family Library service won the customer service category in the Isle of Man Awards for Excellence. It comes as no surprise to those who use it.
Sheila Waiting has been a customer of the mobile library service since it started out as the rural library service in 1968. She said: ‘I have roamed around the different stops and I can’t speak higher of it.
‘The staff have always been lovely: helpful and friendly.’
At Sulby, Barbara Bernard commented: ‘I wouldn’t be without it for the world. I am absolutely spoiled!’
Indeed, Alan wouldn’t take no for an answer when he offered to carry Mrs Bernard’s books back to her house for her.
‘I think people think we just come out and everybody comes to us, but it is not like that at all,’ said Alan. ‘We take a real interest in our customers.’
Alan has found himself multi-tasking while at work.
‘I have even herded sheep in this van! Some sheep had escaped from a field so we used this to block the road.’
As well as traditional books and audiobooks on CDs, the library is expanding its Playaway service, which features pre-recorded MP3 players for listeners to use.
Each day sees the whole age range of customers making use of the service, from children to senior citizens. For the vast majority, they are meeting old friends when they are greeted by the team members.
And it’s not just humans who get the VIP treatment. In the storage box above the driver’s seat, there’s a box of dog biscuits for some of the customer’s four-legged companions!
The Mobile Family Library service really does cater for every man, woman – and their dog!
MOBILE FAMILY LIBRARY FACTFILE:
The service makes 90 stops every two weeks.
It serves 17 residential homes, to which 5,611 items were loaned last year – these are all hand selected by the Mobile Family Library staff.
There are 25 Home Library Service members who receive individual visits with a bespoke selection of items from audio books to specific subjects, selected by Janet Moore.
Nearly 35,000 items are issued in a year.
About 1,500 new items are added to stock in a year.
You can look up details of routes and books on offer by visiting the Mobile Family Library section at http://www.familylibrary.im
Back to Paul Speller Media news page.