Bookmobiles and Building Community

A report from the 2016 ABOS conference

October 27, 2016

Bookmobiles from Ohio and Kentucky were available for attendees to tour at the Association of Bookmobile and Outreach Services Conference, October 19-21, in Covington, Kentucky.
Bookmobiles from Ohio and Kentucky were available for attendees to tour at the Association of Bookmobile and Outreach Services Conference, October 19-21, in Covington, Kentucky.

Just across the historic John A. Roebling Bridge from downtown Cincinnati, 255 bookmobile and outreach professionals from across the country converged at the Marriott RiverCenter in Covington, Kentucky, for the 2016 Association of Bookmobile and Outreach Services (ABOS) Conference.

The conference kicked off October 19 with a welcome from ABOS President Marianne Thompson, Covington Mayor Sherry Carran, Public Library of Cincinnati and Hamilton County Director Kim Fender and Manager of Outreach Services Drew Pearson, Kenton County (Ky.) Public Library Director Dave Schroeder, and Covington Branch Manager Julia Allegrini, all of whom connected the area’s history and growth with the services that local libraries provide.

Under the theme of “Outreach Services—Building Community,” conference attendees could choose workshops ranging from library services to English language learners, incarcerated people, ex-offenders, older adults, and families; working with volunteers; and the latest trends and technologies in bookmobiles.

Sarah Hammershaimb, adult services librarian at the West Chicago (Ill.) Public Library, shared her “novice outreach experiences” for those new to library outreach services. Her aptly titled workshop, “Help, I’m a New Outreach Librarian! What Now?,” included her successes and pitfalls as she served older adults in assisted living facilities as well as English language learners.

During “Read, Play, Make! Outreach Programming to Engage Children and Their Families,” Amytha Willard of the Santa Clara County (Calif.) Library District’s bookmobile department explored creative ways to engage children and families through library programming on the bookmobile, as well as ways to build support for services through outreach partnerships with Friends groups and local institutions.

Karen Bradley, mobile services librarian at Arapahoe Libraries in Englewood, Colorado, shared the challenges she faced as she sought to develop a service connection with the nearby Centennial Community Transition Center, a facility that serves ex-offenders transitioning out of prison.

“The ABOS conference is well known for the extreme friendliness of the participants,” said Marianne Thompson, outreach services manager for the Fountaindale Public Library in Bolingbrook, Illinois. “This is the greatest national networking event for outreach people. You can share your ideas and problems with people who know what we all experience every day.”

Checking out the latest in bookmobile design
Checking out the latest in bookmobile design

Keynote speaker and former Kentucky State Librarian Wayne Onkst explored the history of Kentucky’s mobile outreach services, from its humble roots with pack-horse librarians to building what is currently the largest bookmobile fleet in the United States.

Attendees also had the opportunity to board and tour several bookmobiles from Ohio and Kentucky, all of which were parked overlooking the Cincinnati skyline. Tours of the Main Library of the Public Library of Cincinnati and Hamilton County and the Covington Branch of the Kenton County Public Library were also offered.

ABOS has experienced tremendous growth since its first conference in 2006, much of which has been attributed to the manageable size, friendly atmosphere, and front-line service focus that the annual conference provides. The 2016 conference in Covington welcomed a record 150 first-time attendees.

The 2017 ABOS Conference will be held October 25–27 in Pittsburgh.

An affiliate of ALA, ABOS supports and encourages government officials, library administrators, trustees, and staff in the provision of quality bookmobile and outreach services to meet diverse community information and programming needs. To learn more about ABOS, please visit


Reference librarian Zac Laugheed of Denver Public Library.

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Libraries from Cleveland to Seattle have adopted special bike programs to carry books and services around town with old-fashioned pedal power

Pedal Power

Two- and three-wheeled library outreach