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Toledo Lucas County Public Library’s Outreach Services, U.S.A.
by Pat Nigro

Hundreds and hundreds of Lucas County residents eagerly await the arrival of the Outreach Services staff and our fleet of Toledo Lucas County Public Library vehicles each month. Without the service, they would not have access to the library resources that are delivered to their doorstep.

The Toledo Lucas County Public Library (TLCPL) is proud of its long history of serving the residents of Lucas County for over 175 years. Since 1838, the Library’s services and system have grown substantially. Bookmobile service to the rural areas of the county began in 1938, serving school children. In 1940, another bookmobile was purchased to serve adults and families that lived further from the city. Today, the Toledo Lucas County Public Library has grown to include the downtown landmark of Main Library, 19 branch locations and an Outreach Services Department that operates four specialized vehicles, a door step delivery system for homebound customers and ‘Childcare Kits’ delivered to preschools and childcare centers. The Library’s fleet includes a mobile technology computer bus, a community bookmobile, a book hauler dedicated to serving nursing homes and an early literacy van.


(Toledo Lucas County Public Library’s Mobile Technology Center)

Our flagship is the Mobile Technology Center (MTC) which is a state-of the-art computer classroom on wheels. It is a handicapped accessible computer hub, complete with internet access and Wi-Fi. It is specially designed with twelve desktop computers, eleven for its students and one computer for the librarian to use during instruction. Two workstations provide ZoomText Magnifiers with retractable desks which can be elevated or lowered to create a comfortable learning environment for anyone in a wheelchair. All computers have high contrast keyboards to be better seen and used by our visually impaired patrons. The MTC offers free computer instruction to seniors, preschoolers and those who live in disadvantaged neighborhoods.
Programs offered at senior residential sites include basic computer assistance, Internet 101, Introduction to Social Media and Cybersecurity Tips. Many of our ‘Silver Surfers’ enjoy using the wheelchair lift to ‘walk onto’ our 45-ft. long computer bus. The sessions are often lively, energized and fun-filled as many enjoy learning the difference between a ‘country mouse’ and a computer mouse. During the holiday season, we assist many seniors in learning how to use their electronic gifts such as iPads, tablets and cell phones. Our student’s average age is 80 plus years. Since 2012, we have celebrated over a dozen students’ centennial birthdays on board the Mobile Technology Center, giving new meaning to truly life-long learners.

We serve people from the age of three to 103, so it is important that we offer many diverse programs. “Tiny Tech Digital Literacy” is designed for preschoolers and is offered to various childcare centers and Head Start programs in partnership with Toledo Public Schools. While on board with the librarian, preschoolers learn basic computer skills such as clicking, pointing and dragging the mouse, while focusing on early literacy and concept skills.

Moving through communities, we also offer computer pop-up shops, one stop resume shops and training on digital devices at community shopping centers, sometimes going inside restaurants with our traveling iPad kits.

(Toledo Lucas County Public Library’s Bookmobile)

The Toledo Lucas County Public Library’s iconic vehicle is our 28-ft community bookmobile. This handicapped accessible truck welcomes customers, giving them the opportunity to visit the library parked right outside their door. The well-stocked bookmobile serves 35 county neighborhoods, both rural and inner city, including mobile home parks, senior residential apartments, and low-income housing complexes. The bookmobile follows a published schedule and makes weekly, bi-weekly or monthly stops depending on the neighborhood’s demand. This mini library-on-wheels carries a variety of books, music, movies, and audiobooks to engage customers of all ages. Outreach staff recommend items and address reference inquiries for delivery upon the next scheduled visit of the bookmobile. TLCPL’s Outreach Services also provides programming for its customers. Programs include the Summer Reading Challenge, seasonal programs for children and adults, and participation in community events such as holiday parades.

(Toledo Lucas County Public Library’s Book Hauler)

The Book Hauler offers personalized service to customers who live in over sixty nursing homes, senior residential sites, and health care facilities. This truck is specially designed to transport ten library carts with additional built in shelving to accommodate extra materials. Customers are welcome to browse the mini library that is set up in their common meeting space, often their front lobby. In addition, Outreach staff will deliver requested materials to residents’ rooms. Many times, we hear from Activity Directors that our best readers have re-scheduled their beauty salon appointments to make sure that they do not miss the library when it is visiting their communal home.

(The Toledo Lucas County Public Library’s Ready to Read Early Literacy Van)

Research indicates that nearly one third of children in the city of Toledo and Lucas County are not prepared to enter kindergarten ready to read and write. This startling realization compelled the Library, along with the support of the Library’s Legacy Foundation and community partners, to purchase a van along with early literacy materials to start the Ready to Read program. Librarians seek out parents and caregivers of children ages birth to preschool to build early literacy skills using the “Every Child Ready to Read” curriculum that was developed by the Association for Library Service to Children and the Public Library Association. At the end of each training, every family receives a free kit which includes a dry-erase early literacy activity book, five books, an echo microphone and a magnetic letter puzzle. Since its inception in 2014, the Ready to Read team has conducted 2,804 preschool kit trainings, 847 kindergarten kit trainings, 383 teacher trainings, and has reached over 12,000 adults and over 11,000 children.

The Toledo Library’s Outreach Services is fueled by many community partnerships throughout the county including the Area Office on Aging of Northwest Ohio, area public schools and childcare centers, subsidized housing complexes, nursing homes and rehab centers, food pantries, the Lucas County Board of Developmental Disabilities, the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services, the Lucas County Health Department and both the YMCA and the YWCA.

The Toledo Lucas County Public Library’s mission statement inspires us to engage all our communities, promote lifelong learning, and provide universal access to a broad range of information, ideas, and entertainment. The Library’s Outreach Services continues this mission by providing and expanding access to services so that the library is available to the whole community.

Copyright 2017 by Patricia Nigro.

About the author:
Patricia Nigro has been actively involved at the Toledo Lucas County Public Library since 1996 in various capacities. Currently, she is Manager of the Outreach Services Department and has been involved in the purchase and design of four library vehicles. Patricia holds a MLIS from the Kent State University, and a B.A. from the University of Toledo.
Her email address is