Uniquely Expanding Library Services
Nicki Stohr, director of Wilson County Public Libraries in Texas, launched a book kiosk in 2012 in nearby La Vernia, Texas as a quick fix to expand library services within the county. After five years, the kiosk program was so successful it was clear La Vernia could support a brick and mortar library. So on January 20, 2017, the Jane Yelvington McCallum Public Library branch in La Vernia opened to permanently expand library services. Here’s how it happened.
When Stohr joined the staff of Wilson County Public Libraries in 2009, she met a dedicated member of the advisory board focused on getting library services back to her area of the county. There had been a library in nearby La Vernia, Texas, but it had closed when the library lost its lease several years prior. Upon losing its lease, the library sold everything and put the money into savings. A small group of dedicated women in the community, including Stohr’s advisory board member, oversaw the funds and had continued meeting in hopes of finding a solution. This advisory board member approached Stroh about coming up with some options to expand services to La Vernia.
Stohr had recently attended Public Library Association’s Annual Conference and learned about a book kiosk at a baseball field in Florida. This seemed like a viable option for La Vernia as well.
She pitched the idea to the small committee of dedicated La Vernia community members and the committee agreed to purchase the $23,000 kiosk and a book return with the existing funds from the liquidated library assets.
In 2012, the first book kiosk, lovingly referred to by library staff as “LaVern” launched at the Lifecheck Pharmacy in La Vernia. It connects to the library’s ILS and functions like a branch. The initial response was very positive and the kiosk continued to gain popularity. After two years at Lifecheck and a renovation to the original space, the kiosk moved to the patio of HEB, a local grocery store, in 2014.
Today, “LaVern” houses about 200 items, including paperback books, audiobooks on CD and hardback books. Approximately 175 of these items are checked out each month. Items are rotated regularly to ensure the material is always fresh and diverse. The kiosk typically functions with internet access but can also operate with a flash drive if needed. Ongoing expenses only include occasional maintenance on the machine and internet service.
Stohr attributes the success of the kiosk to several factors: a grocery store is an ideal location because of foot traffic and visibility, the kiosk is located outside of the store so material is accessible 24/7, and La Vernia is approximately 30 miles outside of San Antonio so commuters frequently utilize the audiobooks. Stohr highly recommends the book kiosk program to expand library services to underserved areas within a community.
With the opening of the permanent La Vernia branch, “LaVern” is now moving to nearby Poth, Texas to continue expanding services within Wilson County.