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How Hall County Library System is working to reach more families
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The Hall County Library System received a $10,000 grant from Jackson EMC for its new mobile library, Reading Roadshow. The grant was used, in part, to stock the open-air library shelves with new books.

The Reading Roadshow is taking the library to the families.

The Hall County Library System, after receiving a $10,000 grant from Jackson EMC, created a mobile library that can be set up at festivals, public events and community centers to reach those not visiting the system’s five locations.

The Reading Roadshow offers books as well as information about how to get a library card or learn about other services the library offers.

“It’s all about breaking down barriers and reminding people that we’re here,” MacKinney said. “We still have everything they love and used five years ago, but we probably added services they will find helpful that they may not realize are available to them.”

The grant the library received was used to purchase equipment to make the Reading Roadshow happen. Books and magnetic bookshelves to hold them were purchased along with laptops, iPads and a Wi-Fi hotspot allowing residents to sign up for library cards on site or view e-books and audio books.

MacKinney said one of the most common barriers keeping residents from the library is worry they owe fines for unreturned books.

“Sometimes, kids don’t think their mom returned their book, so now they can’t use the library,” MacKinney said. “But they can. They absolutely can. We will find out a way. We will make sure they have a library card that works. Our goal is not to punish you, it’s to make sure you feel comfortable coming back here.”

Another barrier MacKinney said residents sometimes face is transportation to the library. Parents may have a job that doesn’t allow the time to stop by the library. Or sometimes, there’s simply not one nearby.

“What we have done for several years is books by mail,” MacKinney said. “If you’re homebound for whatever reason, we mail them to you, and we provide the postage for you to mail them back. So that’s a very, very popular program for us. But we still wanted to reach people who might not be homebound, per se, but might have transportation issues.”

Due to budget cuts, the East Hall branch of the library closed in 2011, making it harder for residents in that part of the county to get to a library. So, with the Reading Roadshow, the library system has recently been visiting the East Hall Community Center.

“We were very lucky that (Hall County Parks and Leisure Services) teamed up with us and we were able to provide a consistent summer-reading program at that community center,” MacKinney said.