Expanding Access to Library Services for People in Need

County Bookmobile and BookDash programs bring the library directly to people’s homes

SANTA CLARA COUNTY, CALIF. – The County of Santa Clara is proud of the educational opportunities it provides to its residents. According to a U.S. News & World Report Study, the county exceeds the national average in high school graduation rates and the percentage of people with a degree in higher education – two metrics that determine, in part, the health of any given community.

Access to books and educational reading materials is paramount to achieve the educational success that helps make Santa Clara County a healthy community. The Santa Clara County Library District (SCCLD) works to deliver library services to everyone throughout the county, and offers residents free and easy access to books, computers, eResources, and more.

There are seven community libraries and one branch library in the SCCLD system. However, getting to a library can be difficult: Of the almost 2 million people in Santa Clara County, almost 100,000 live in areas with limited access to a public library.

“Santa Clara County’s Library District’s mission of life-long learning energizes me every day; I believe the opportunities at public libraries are empowering and equalizing in very personal ways,” said County Librarian Jennifer Weeks. “The Bookmobile and BookDash programs are examples of how our dedicated library team works diligently to further develop the County Library as a thriving public organization.”

Excerpted quote from Jennifer Weeks -  “The Bookmobile and BookDash  programs are examples of how our  dedicated library team works diligently  to further develop the County Library as  a thriving public organization.”  ~ County Librarian Jennifer Weeks

To reach everyone in the county, SCCLD employs a Bookmobile that provides library services to people who may have difficulty visiting a community library – including seniors, individuals with physical limitations, children, and residents in rural areas. The Bookmobile has two vehicles that make over 100 stops a month at senior centers, schools, agricultural areas, and unincorporated portions of Santa Clara County.

Amytha Willard has worked for the Santa Clara County Library District (SCCLD) for 16 years.  Willard was named the 2021 Association Bookmobile & Outreach Services Karen Hake Outstanding Bookmobile Librarian. She was selected in recognition of her continuous dedication and commitment to the bookmobile profession.

A person showing off books on bookshelves inside the back of a van-like vehicle.
Association of Bookmobile & Outreach Services Award Winner Amytha Willard displays books and other library resources in the traveling Bookmobile.

 

When SCCLD launched the Lunch in the Library program in 2017 at its two qualifying libraries, Willard looked to extend the program to communities in South County. The team served healthy lunches to children and offered fun and educational activities for kids, including STEM projects, crafts, and a visit by San Francisco 49ers mascot Sourdough Sam.

“The libraries are busy, there isn’t a lot of time to focus on home delivery service,” said Willard. “I had seen how other programs worked and I thought that’s something we can make more efficient, and we can start to build relationships in the community.”

During the COVID-19 pandemic, Willard and her team developed and implemented BookDash, a contactless home-delivery solution to meet the needs of the older adult community and those who could not get to a library during the pandemic due to family illness, injury, medical condition, or disability.

“Because of the pandemic, people couldn’t go to the library,” said Willard. “We had a patron who had cancer. They couldn’t go out because of the pandemic and ended up having a bunch of overdue library items, thus they couldn’t use their library card and that was a huge barrier to access. They contacted BookDash and we were able to pick up their overdue items and get them new things. We were able to build a relationship with them, learned what they like, and eventually a friendship was formed. We’re another person to be there in their lives, to support them and to help provide another means of access.”

In the last year, the BookDash service grew from five clients to 60. Willard said that she looks forward to seeing the program reach other cities in Santa Clara County and building on existing partnerships to expand the service.

“I thought there must be more,” Willard said. “We wanted to expand on who qualified – not just seniors, but those with medical conditions, both short and long term. When we think about people who are homebound, we assume a certain image. We wanted to get away from those assumptions to make the program more inclusive and easier for children and parents who need us.”

Excerpted quote from Amytha Willard -  “When we think about people who are homebound,  we assume a certain image. We wanted to get away  from those assumptions to make the program  more inclusive and easier for children and  parents who need us.” ~Amytha Willard

Willard thinks more people will learn about the BookDash program through shared experiences from patrons who tell their friends and family. She hopes that, as more people know about the program, they will spread the word, which will lead to more support from the community and more resources for BookDash.

“This program has a real impact on people’s lives and we want people to be able to enjoy a full experience,” Willard added. “The stories we hear from people, they’re confiding in us. I’m so happy we can provide that and that the clients are getting what they need out of it.”

The Bookmobile and BookDash programs help make Santa Clara County one of the top 40 healthiest communities in the nation, based on the U.S. News & World Report Study.

To learn more about the SCCLD, and the Bookmobile and BookDash programs visit https://sccld.org/bookdash.

 

©2022 County of Santa Clara. All rights reserved.