". . . we are truly changing the lives of the people we service. That’s what makes it worthwhile.”
The Houston Public Library’s newest tool is a $325,000 modified RV, with computers, televisions, and a 3-D printer, called the Mobile Express. Library and city officials unveiled the new vehicle in December, replacing an older, antiquated lab. When parked, the Mobile Express can expand its walls to accommodate twenty-four people, twice the capacity of the previous lab.
“It allows us to extend beyond our static location,” My’Tesha Tates, who leads the community engagement team that will deploy the RV, told the Houston Chronicle. “We’re able to take this vehicle to places that people eat, sleep, work, and play to provide services that are vital to the community.”
According to the library’s website, the Mobile Express is the library’s "computer classroom on wheels," a new concept in the delivery of library services, bringing access to technology and a number of programs to high-need neighborhoods. Services provided include literacy programs, workforce-development training, computer training, access to technology, homework help, enrichment programs, ESL classes, after-school programs, and library-card registration.
HPL Mobile Express is equipped with twelve desktop computers, ten laptops, wi-fi, and a large-screen smart board for instruction, various programs, and more. The lab will expand the library’s services outside of the physical buildings, providing access to much-needed workshops and resources to areas with low to moderate income.
The Mobile Express was funded by $325,000 in individual donations and private grants. The fundraising drive focused on an effort to bridge the service gaps created by Hurricane Harvey. Of the eight library locations severely damaged by Harvey, only one has been fully repaired. The remaining seven are still under repair or awaiting relocation or reconstruction. Nicole Robinson, deputy director of the Houston Public Library, said transportation and mobility still pose challenges for library services, particularly in underserved communities. That’s where the Mobile Express comes in, she said.
“In many cases, it’s the only resource that people have,” Tates said. “They haven’t had access to it before. So, we are truly changing the lives of the people we service. That’s what makes it worthwhile.”
Criteria for HPL Mobile Express site visits include:
- Organization’s mission must relate to the mission and objectives of HPL.
- Organization’s programs and services must target underserved populations.
- Location must have adequate parking for the Mobile Express vehicle.
- Location must allow for handicap access.
- Event or activity must consist of at least ten participants.
- Event request's preferred method is by submitting our request form.
- Event requests must be submitted at least six weeks prior to the event date.
- Event requests contain an option for a booth setup if the Mobile Express is unavailable.
- Must complete a “Customer Feedback” form at the completion of the program or service.