Since it first hit the road in 2015, few offerings from the Coquitlam Public Library have been as popular – or required as much maintenance – as the Library Link.
A retrofitted Ford F-150, the Link rolls seven days a week, popping up at parks during the summer and pulling up to primary schools with Strong Start programs during the school year to introduce young readers (and reluctant readers) to Coquitlam library.
“It’s my baby,” says Anthea Goffe, director of community engagement for the library. “Of all the things we do at the library, it’s the one that gets the most written comments about how much effect it has on people, and helping their kids learn to read . . . how much it builds community, how much it helps people who can’t physically get to the library.”
In addition to library card blitzes, the Link has also been a WiFi hotspot, notes Donna Clark-MacMurchy in a recent library blog post.
After six years of service, the Link may be nearing the end of its life.
Asked how much longer the vehicle will last, Goffe replies: “It’s day by day. . . . Like any old car you can string it together forever if you have to. But it’s had its time.”
They’ve replaced the generator a couple of times, dealt with an overheating pipe, and faced an assortment of repairs.
”It’s had engine things. It’s had brake things. It’s got all the things,” Goffe says, explaining the pending need for a new vehicle.
The vision for a replacement vehicle, she explains, is a purpose-built vehicle with a bigger chassis than the Link that would allow for greater accessibility for people in wheelchairs or parents pushing strollers. She estimates the total cost might be around $700,000.
“It’s a big-ticket item,” she says.
The library paid approximately $100,000 for the Link, she says. The money was a combination of insurance cash (there was a small settlement after their book bus was lost in a fire) as well as a fundraising drive.
However, a new, self-contained mobile library with on-board washrooms could be a boon to the community, Goffe says.
“We can actually go out for longer and do more with it,” she says.
While Goffe would like to have a road-ready replacement by the end of 2022, she notes that money is in short supply. COVID-19 ate up some of the library’s reserve funding, she says.
In terms of cash on hand, the library ended 2020 with $1.44 million. In 2019, the library had a cash reserve of $1.65 million.
The library’s annual surplus dipped by nearly $340,000 from 2019 to 2020, dropping to $136,497.
“We’re kind of back to the drawing board on how we’re going to fund it.”
Over the years, the Link has been crucial for library outreach, Goffe says.
Staff will sometimes bring out some new tech like a 3D printer and pique the interest of new, potential library users.
“We can show off and people say: ‘Wow, you get this from the library?’”
The Link’s summertime schedule can be found here.