Traverse City Record-Eagle

Arts & Entertainment

June 13, 2014

TADL rolls out 'Commuting Library'

TRAVERSE CITY — What are black and white and red all over? Books — and the bicycle that carries them.

The Traverse Area District Library rolled out its new Commuting Library which will appear all over town this summer. The pedal-powered cargo bicycle is equipped with everything needed to register a library card, check out books or learn how to access the TADL app, ebooks and other digital offerings.

“We’ve been looking at different ways to explore outreach efforts,” said Kristen Talaga, TADL marketing and communications manager. “But we have limited resources for these things.”

That’s where friends, cycling enthusiasts and library patrons Laura and Bob Otwell and Ty and Johanna Schmidt came in. The Otwells offered their 200-pound-capacity cargo bike to the Schmidts’ Norte! Youth Cycling Club. In turn Ty Schmidt suggested lending the bike to the library.

"It's built for cargo and it's got a mountain bike gearing so you can gear it down for easy pedaling," said Laura Otwell, who bought the bike 20 years ago in Oregon and used it in Traverse City for a delivery business. "It takes some getting used to because the wheel base is long, but it is fun to ride."

Library facilities manager Bruce Bennett built a special two-shelf cargo box system to maximize storage. Local design firm Image 360 donated signage and wireless Internet provider miSpot kicked in mobile Wi-Fi. Otwell and Schmidt volunteered to pedal the bicycle, accompanied by library staff.

“It’s just one of those true community collaborations that brought significant resources to the table, being the bike and the pedal power,” Talaga said. “We wouldn’t be able to do this without either of those.”

TADL hopes to maximize the Commuting Library's impact by rolling it to high-traffic events including farmers markets, Friday Night Live and Open Space films, Talaga said. The library will be stocked with bestsellers and a rotating collection of books tailored to the bike's location, like cookbooks and gardening books at farmers markets and DVDs at Open Space films.

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