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Article Published June 29, 2022

Scranton Program is on the Move

By By Ben Rayner

A unique program at the Scranton Memorial Library is literally getting a test drive this summer. According to Library Director, Sunnie Scarpa, a new mobile “Book Caddy” will be providing residents of North Madison with an easy way to browse, borrow, and return books at a more convenient location.

The new caddy was put into service just this past Tuesday and through Labor Day this new service will make picking up holds more convenient for North Madison residents, said Scarpa. The Book Caddy will be in the Madison Earth Care parking lot, 1250A Durham Road, Madison, every Tuesday from 3 to 6 p.m.

Scarpa said finding a way to serve residents of North Madison has been a challenge, but recent American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funds have allowed the library to adopt this creative program. Scarpa said the library has been toying with the idea of a book-mobile, a popular program for many libraries to assist in distributing books and encouraging reading, that provides services at remote locations to offer North Madison patrons an alternative.

“What we learned…was that because of the geography of North Madison, even though it’s a small town, is that the reality is we are on the southern most border for the town and mentally for folks in North Madison side it feels like a long way to come. So many folks up there, especially north of the traffic circle, they may not even come downtown. They probably go shopping up there, they use the post office up there and so they are much more likely to utilize the Durham and Killingworth libraries. We just want to give them an option and offer more convenience.”

However, the costs associated with actually implementing a book-mobile program are deceptively costly making it impractical to undertake a specific book-mobile program, said Scarpa.

“A lot of people don’t really think about what those costs are, which is fine because that is our job. But I had worked at places that used book-mobiles before and it gives a lot of opportunities for outreach, but it comes with a really large operational cost every year. Drivers need a special license, you need special insurance, you have the fuel cost, and they are usually gas-guzzlers, and then the on-going maintenance and repairs, so you end up with that unknown budget number,” said Scarpa. “I didn’t want to lock us into that and it was impractical to build another long-term full-time location obviously has a huge cost. So, we were really looking for something that could provide services up there for North Madison, without that on-going budget burden. We were able to utilize this money, and we found this scooter trailer. There’s no real added fuel costs, you can pull it behind any sedan, the insurance needs are minimal, so the on-going cost is just of staffing, so super minimal.”

Patrons can stop in and pick up items that they have placed on hold or browse a small collection of popular items that will be provided. Returns are also accepted and there will be a friendly staff member to help residents should they need it, according to Scarpa.

“You can pick up, you can drop off, and there will be a small collection of books to browse. We have internet and a staff member there on duty,” Scarpa said. “It’s basically a pop-up library once a week. This is such a great chance for us to try something innovative. The Book Caddy is something it pretty unique. It’s a great opportunity.”

Scarpa said the library ran a test of the program earlier this year and refined it after feedback from several dozen families picked to participate in the initial run. According to Scarpa, they would like to extend or make the program permanent but no decision has been made as of yet, as the library is awaiting response and more feedback as the program gains traction.

“We did a six-week beta test this spring with some invited families to test it out and make sure it would actually work, and it worked great. We tweaked a couple of things based on their feedback, but we know it will work and were really excited about this,” Scarpa said. “The folks at Madison Earth Care were willing to have us come back because we were associated with them, which was incredibly generous (The library moved temporarily to North Madison during their renovations in 2018-’19) We will see how it goes. If a lot of people use the service, then we’re going to talk to Madison Earth Care about finding a nook up there to have a more year-round situation. And if it doesn’t work-we haven’t really wasted the library’s money so we are very excited to see what people think.”

Patrons can place holds now by calling the Library at 203-245-7365 or use their online catalog and choose “Madison-North Madison Branch” as your pick-up location (instead of “Madison-Scranton”).

This project is made possible by the Institute of Museum and Library Services under the provisions of the American Rescue Plan Act, administered by the Connecticut State Library.