Can’t get to the library? Don’t worry, it’s coming to you!

Student Jermin Gilbert browses through some of the selections on the science fiction themed library cart.

Student Jermin Gilbert browses through some of the selections on the science fiction themed library cart.

Credit: River Backman

DUNMORE, Pa. — A new initiative by the Penn State Scranton’s library staff hopes to encourage more campus engagement with the library — and more reading — by “carting” materials from the library directly to students, faculty and staff.

Reference and Instruction Librarian Kristin Green said she noticed that since last summer, when the library building was placed offline due to a major renovation/construction project, students were not often visiting the temporary library location in Dawson 10. While much of the library’s extensive collection of books and other materials is currently in storage, its current location has a variety of books, graphic novels, and DVDs of television shows and movies available to borrow, as well as magazines and periodicals onsite, as well as a 3-D printer.

So, to increase awareness and get more books and materials into the hands of students and employees, Green and the library staff came up with a unique solution.

Using a simple utility cart loaded with a pre-determined themed selection of books and DVDs, Green takes her cart around to the Dawson Building and the Study Learning Center next door a few times each month, visiting offices and common areas, stopping to chat with students and employees and asking them if they’d like to check out a book or movie.

Students and employees are free to peruse the books being showcased, and once they make their selections, Green collects their information so their borrowed selections can be recorded.

Books can be loaned to students for the entire semester, graphic novels can be loaned for up to four weeks, and DVDs can be loaned for up to one week. All items may be returned before the loan period ends, and all items are renewable after the loan period expires — borrowers just need to visit the library before the loan period ends and ask to renew.

The library staff chooses the cart’s theme based on any special holidays or celebrations taking place in that particular month, as well as some of the personal interests of our campus’ library staff, who can provide more details about the cart books.

For example, in January, Green mainly pulled items from the collection matching the theme of science fiction, a favorite genre of hers. For February, Library Operations Supervisor Mary Ann Joyce selected material from the romance genre, because she enjoys reading and writing romance, and because of Valentine’s Day, she said.

Next month, for March, Student Engagement and Outreach Librarian Molly Abdalla is taking the lead and pulling materials related to women’s history, since it will be Women’s History Month. And in April, Green, Joyce and Abdalla will be choosing poetry-based materials, which ties into April being National Poetry Month.

While seeing someone pushing a metal cart loaded with books around campus may look a bit unusual, Green said, she noted that the focus of this initiative is on leisure and the hope that having these materials easily available can help students with stress relief and getting a break from academics. It also provides the librarians with more insight into student and employee reading/leisure preferences.

“It’s an opportunity for us to talk with students about their reading interests and about what the library has to offer," said Green. "The most important thing our campus librarians want is to encourage students to engage and connect with the library. Even if students do not check any items out, they will learn what the library has available.”