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UI students hope to create new mobile library

BY LAUREN COFFEY | JANUARY 31, 2013 5:00 AM

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A group of children mills about the Iowa City Public Library, all with books in their hands and eager smiles on their faces.

For most, this is a common scene experienced a handful of times per month. But for the children living in southeastern Iowa City, this occurs far less often.

"With single parents and working families, going to the library just is not a priority," University of Iowa library student Cassanda Elton said. "You have to drive there, and pay for parking, or it's free after 5, and by then it's all gone. By the time the parents get home at 5 at night, they have other things to do."

Because downtown is farther away for these families, many of the residents have difficulty coming to the library. This leaves children with their school libraries, which have limited options, Elton said.
Several UI library students, including Elton, decided they wanted to alleviate the problem by creating their own library to specifically service children in southeastern Iowa City. Their idea, called the Antelope Lending Library, was created in April 2012, and it is getting closer to becoming a reality.

The library would be a satellite library, in which books could be moved various places to reach as many children as possible.

The group for the project has had some financial issues and has done a multitude of fundraisers. Its biggest fundraiser occurred through a website called indiegogo.com. Through the website, the members raised $13, 509.

A study was published May 2011 by the Himmel Wilson Library Consultants that determined that of the active households of southeastern Iowa City, only 16 to 20 percent of them visited the circulation portion of the library, whereas 31 to 35 percent of the population in central Iowa City did.

As of now, Elton and her colleagues are looking into a book mobile: a bus that has shelves to hold all the books, as well as computers in one place.

Despite financial issues, the Antelope Lending Library team hopes to be up and running by the summer, when children need to continue their learning after schools ends.

Iowa City is certified as a "City of Literature," a title given in 2008 by UNESCO. At the time, Iowa City was one of three in the world with this title. Now, it is one of six.

John Kenyon, the executive director of the Iowa City City of Literature, believes that although Iowa City has many opportunities with reading, placing books in children's hands is something that everyone should strive for.

"Just having access to books is the key," he said. "If you're in home where having books is a luxury, or if you have to choose buying a staple or buying a book, well, the choice is obvious. So to have projects like [the Antelope Lending Library], it's incredibly important to have."


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