project leader
Jimmy R
(Anchorage at first, then all over Alaska )
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the project

After retiring from service with the Allegheny Library Association, a classic bookmobile from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania made the long trip to Alaska, now calling Anchorage home. With a little love and some planning we are going to put the bookmobile back to work in Alaska.

Bookmobiles are relatively common in the Lower 48, but we are pretty sure this will be the first one in Anchorage. This project will involve reimagining the bookmobile, including some work on the bus itself, organizing, acquiring books and asking questions about what a mobile library can be?

Over the years Anchorage has seen many libraries close around town and brick and mortar all ages, community and artist run spaces have often had a difficult time staying open. In conversation with other community members and organizations the idea of a more nimble, mobile space has come up time and time again. We hope for the bookmobile to not only be such a space, but to also have the ability to collaborate and make connections between other groups. For example, we have already spoken to Anchorage Community House and Out North Contemporary Art about partnering up, and the Anchorage Parks Foundation about setting up some sort of series of scheduled park visits over the course of the summer, building on their earlier Artist in the Parks endeavors.

We plan to approach this project as artists, thinking creatively in how we understand the possible interpretations and applications of a library on wheels. This creative perspective will shape our decision making, from the bookmobile's content and organization, to its possible alternative uses as a venue for art, music and performance. 

the steps

Firstly, we will be doing some minor work on the bus. Over the ride north a few things shook loose and there are a couple cosmetic issues that need to be dealt with. The most important is getting electricity back to the wheelchair lift, so the bus can remain accessible.

After these initial repairs we will begin to decide what form the mobile library will take. Asking what a library is? What services a bookmobile could provide in Alaska? Free wifi hot spot? Charging station? Voter registration? Free wool socks? A library is a lot more than a collection of books! 

We will also determine what type of library the bookmobile will be. Lending library? Take a book leave a book? What categories and organizational system we will use? What other types of media could be shared through the bookmobile? We want to make it accessible, free and open to the public. We also want it to inspire art and creativity, and to showcase the work of local Alaskan creators. 

We will then do some basic interior remodeling to make the bookmobile as effective as possible, while keeping it a flexible space. For example, the carpeting is 20 years old and pretty filthy and the lighting is old/bulky florecent fixtures. Small improvements, like changing these things out will make the library more welcoming. 

All along the way we will begin to get different people involved through social media, our informal Friends of the Library Association, working with creatives and cultural producers in the area to create events, partnering with existing gatherings like farmers markets and festivals, offering pop ups and classes, and generally getting out there. 

By the summer of 2020 we hope to have the bookmobile and the library it carries fully functional and out and about around town, as well as throughout the state. 

why we're doing it

As a result of a variety of circumstances, serendipity and timing there is a bookmobile in town. It is in amazing shape considering its age and we think that it is worth trying to bring it out of retirement, as apposed to converting it to a food truck or camper. And with a little help we can make this happen. 

This is an artist led project. We see the creation of safe spaces for the communication of ideas and for starting conversations within community as an important part of socially based artistic practices. We are undertaking this project as a means to address a need we see in the city of Anchorage in a way that is rooted in both the history and symbolism of the library, and in the inovative/creative approach to problem solving that accompanies an artistic perspective.  

We are specifically starting this fundraising campaign to get started on fixing up the bus. We will be applying to other funding sources too, but many of these, if received, will not be able to provide support until the spring. With your help we will be able to begin earlier, helping make some winter pop-ups possible and making our goal to be fully operational by the summer of 2020 more doable.  


Inspection/diagnostic - $250 - Mechanical costs cannot be estimated without a proper diagnostic. For this
reason, this will be the first thing we do.

Mechanical repairs - $4,500 - We had the BookMobile inspected when we left Pittsburgh, so we have a list
of needed repairs to start with. We will take this and the result of the
diagnostic and prioritize $4,500 worth of repairs. The remaining work will
be saved for later. High priority repairs - rear tires, front brakes,
blinker switch, muffler, wheelchair lift.

Cosmetic - $2,500 - Like the mechanical repairs, there is a fair amount of cosmetic work to do.
We will prioritize the most important work and save the rest for later in
the year. High priority - patch rust, fill windshield chip, replace
fluorescent lights with LEDs, remove and replace carpeting, repair or
replace seats.

Gatherings/organizing - $1,500 - This will cover costs associated with gathering interested people together
to discuss the project and plan for the future, and travel costs(mostly
gas) for bringing the BookMobile to local events and organizations for
building interest and involvement in the project. This could be meeting
space, food, some contractual services.

Documentation - $1,000 - We will hire local photographer Michael Conti to document the development
of the project and the transformation of the bookmobile over the winter.
This will help us tell the story of the project, promote the following
spring and summer’s activities, and be extremely useful in future

Storage - $600 - We will need to rent a small storage unit for shelving, books and other
project related materials that are not in use, but should not be disposed
of. As we modify the bus we will remove some of the custom shelves, but do
not want to throw them away. We will also acquire tables, a wheeled book
shelf, a canopy and other project related materials. This will be a place
to store such things. We estimate a cost of $50 a month.

Project management/promotion/other - $250 - The remaining funds will go to the costs associated with managing the
project, print and online promotion, and other related costs.

ioby Platform Fee $35
ioby Fiscal Sponsorship Fee (5%) $578
ioby Donation Processing Fee (3%) $347
TOTAL TO RAISE = $11,560


Sorry, but this project doesn't have any updates yet.


This is where photos will go once we build flickr integration


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