The Thompson-Nicola Regional Library’s Mobile Library has won an award for innovation after it was used to allow residents to vote in last year’s municipal election. Photo: TNRD

TNRL Mobile Library receives innovation award

Service used for voting during 2018 municipal election in what is probably a North American first

The Thompson Nicola Regional Library (TNRL)—specifically its Mobile Library service—is the recipient of the 2019 British Columbia Library Association (BCLA) Eureka Award for Innovation.

The TNRL was nominated for the award by Director Steve Rice of Electoral Area “I”, for the delivery of mobile voting within the TNRD using the Mobile Library during the fall 2018 municipal election. The service met the award criteria as being “an innovative approach to address a barrier, solve a problem, provide a powerful new insight, or introduce an original idea in the library field.”

“We were originally nominated for the ‘Building Better Communities’ Award,” says Judy Moore, the chief librarian for the TNRD. “But the BCLA thought we would be better off in the ‘Innovation’ category.”

Since the 1970s the TNRL has operated what is currently the only Mobile Library (formerly known as the Bookmobile) service in the province. It makes thirty regular stops as it travels across the TNRD serving communities that are without local libraries.

In the fall of 2018 the TNRL expanded its rural services by offering advance polling for the 2018 municipal elections via the Mobile Library. This instance of “mobile polling” appears to be the first time such a service has been offered via a library system in North America.

The October 2018 election occurred only months after the TNRL introduced a new Mobile Library. The initiative came from discussions between the TNRL and the Legislative Services department to increase voter turn-out.

“It served two needs,” says Moore. “It increased the number of people who voted, and promoted the new Mobile Library. And we had such a great time in 2017, during the TNRD’s 50th anniversary celebrations, going to the rural and remote communities.”

The initiative gave residents an accessible venue in which to vote, since the TNRL already uses the Mobile Library to visit rural areas of the region, and also increased use of the library system. The potential to serve rural and geographically isolated voters who might not otherwise have had an opportunity to vote on general voting day or other advance voting locations was also recognized.

Advance polling was brought to 17 Mobile Library stops, including Spences Bridge, Loon Lake, Thompson River Estates, Walhachin, 20 Mile, and 70 Mile. All told, 153 residents took advantage of mobile polling across the regional district, and at least one person was a first-time voter.

The Mobile Library has long brought not only books and other materials for people to borrow, but a better “quality of life” to the small rural communities of the TNRD, and the advance polling partnership with Legislative Services is a success which has strengthened and cemented the library as a community necessity.

“I believe, based on feedback from the Mobile Library staff, that the service really contributes to people being able to stay in rural areas,” says Moore. “It helps rural sustainability.

“And Steve Rice was awesome. He not only nominated us for the award, he canvassed people directly regarding their feelings on the Mobile Library and mobile voting.”

The awards ceremony will take place at the annual BCLA Conference on May 10 in Surrey.

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