Ask ELi: What’s That Van in the Library’s Parking Lot?

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Andrew Graham for ELi

On Dec. 18 an ELi reader sent in questions about a “bookmobile” that they had noticed in the parking lot of the East Lansing Public Library (ELPL).

The reader wrote: “At some point during the pandemic a large bookmobile appeared in the parking lot of the East Lansing Public Library. I assume this is a city asset that was purchased through tax dollars. Why and when was it purchased, how much did it cost, how is it intended to be used, and why was there no public discussion regarding the purchase?”

ELi asked ELPL Director Kristin Shelley about the “Library on the Go” van — specifically, how and when it was acquired and its uses.

ELPL used donations and fundraising to purchase the van, not tax dollars.

According to Shelley, “the money used to purchase the van was a combination of donated money and fundraising for several years at our Books, Bites and Bids event.”

After five years of fundraising, a Ford Transit with specific modifications — “uplifting, design, wrap and delivery,” according to Shelley — was purchased for $106,000 in 2019. After taking more than a year for the modifications, the van was delivered on Oct. 2, 2020. 

Shelley noted information about the fundraising and purchase has been made available to the public through media releases, the ELPL website, and library newsletters. 

So, what is the “Library on the Go” being used for?

Since the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic, it has largely been used to bring reading and viewing opportunities to various retirement homes and centers around East Lansing.

“During the pandemic,” Shelley wrote in an email, “we will continue to take it to the retirement communities and we hope to take it to area parks so that people can access wi-fi, as it is equipped with wi-fi.”

Once the pandemic is over, Shelley said the plan is to take the van to schools, festivals, farmers’ markets and other public gatherings. 

“The ‘Library on the Go’ is another way for the East Lansing Public Library to reach out into the East Lansing community,” Shelley wrote. 

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