This is another ‘you’ve not really thought this through, have you Lou?’ post. Sorry about that – if you want more professional and cohesive writing go see here where Hewlett Packard are kindly hosting some of my scribblings.
Mobile libraries, I am willing to bet, are an endangered species right now. Rarer than the Thompsons Gazelle, harder to find than a public toilet. And in some areas, that makes sense, being as how there is probably a brick version of the same thing within easy walking or bus ride distance.
Unless, of course, you can’t walk or their bus route got cut. But we shant dwell on such inconveniences.
No. Instead I’d like to think about why more services are not mobile. We have mobile breast screening trucks. We have mobile blood donation trucks. Both of these services must have been provided on some kind of research based decision which said people were more likely to do something a bit inconvenient and distasteful but ultimately absolutely necessary if the mountain moved and was more accessible to people.
I imagine both of these services are aware that overheads of running a fixed site compared to running a mobile truck are at the least comparable if not less – price of fuel and upkeep/depreciation of the vehicle compared to price of utilities, rent, business tax, repairs to the building for the fixed site. Staffing costs one imagines are the same as long as you can find someone who can multi-task and there doesn’t to be a shortage of people with a not inconsiderable amount of nothing to do on their hands at the moment.
So what kind of services am I thinking about? Libraries are obvious especially in rural communities – taking into account driving between villages and stops, you can surely easily service 4-6 villages per day running on a weekly or fortnightly rotation. Turning existing central libraries into storage warehouses can’t be entirely outside the realms of possibility. Mobile e-book rental points are probably also the way forward as well as sticking a mobile municipal wireless broadband broadcast inside the van with the wep key available as long as you come into the van and ask for it.
Then there’s fostering and adoption and public health information distribution. Run walk in information surgeries but instead of paying to hire other peoples spaces, take your own. Have somewhere reliable and warm to book out and take on the road – there’s bound to be more than those two service areas in need. Planning consultations? Take them out into the community if it’s a major project. Consultations on road layouts? Off you go then, just make sure you give feedback on your experience of getting the truck out of the town centre and out into the suburbs and rural areas as part of the consultation.
If we are going to be looking to base future communication strategies on fishing where the fishes are, i.e. taking the information, discussion and engagement to the places where people have the time and are comfortable discussing and engaging, then why not the same for all Council Services it is suitable for. Place service delivery in front of peoples eye balls, insert yourself into their foot fall. Be where they go.
Or, failing the mobile approach, just set up a permanent stall in the local Mall and get people to donate blood, talk about their health problems, inform them of a coming heatwave and that there is a major consultation on road redesign there instead. Consumerism is taking over our country so we might as well acknowledge it and use it to our advantage.