The All Are Welcome Van

Bringing the library to communities across the county

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Children and a parent gather under the library tent to get free books at Luxton Park

Children at Luxton Park fill new backpacks with books and activity kits from the library!

Back to School with the Library Van

Children from the Prospect Park neighborhood flock to Luxton Park, laughing with friends, playing yard games, and gathering materials they’ll need to begin a successful new year at school.

At a back-to-school event organized by the neighborhood community center, the library van sits alongside the park ready to welcome children and families with free give-away books; a Wi-Fi signal; activity packs filled with art supplies, games, and helpful information; and yard games, such as an oversized Connect Four board and a wind tunnel for experimenting with gravity and lift. Throughout the park, children and parents pick up free backpacks, food for lunches, snacks, books, and more to help equip them for a successful start to the new school year.

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Table in the park with children's books

The Library Van Near You

The Luxton Park back-to-school event is just one of many appearances the library van has made in parks and at events across Hennepin County. This summer, the van has been busy visiting farmers’ markets, parks, and community centers to bring free resources, information, and Wi-Fi to patrons. With the quickly changing reality of the pandemic, the library van continues to be a valuable tool in bringing the library directly to the community while connecting safely outdoors. For many, especially those with limited internet access or transportation, the library van has become the main way they receive library updates and services. The van was recently outfitted with a powerful Wi-Fi signal and printer, helping patrons from all corners of the county connect online for work, school, and play.

 

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The library van is parked outside of a grocery story and staffed by two librarians

"The All Are Welcome Van provides an opportunity to share who the library is and to be a first touchpoint introduction to the library, how it all works, and what resources the library offers." –Chaleng, HCL

An Introduction to New Communities

The van is invaluable resource often used in reaching out to community members who are not yet familiar with the library, welcoming them into the organization and family of patrons. Brooklyn Park Library and Brookdale Library staff partnered with Sun Foods, a Cambodian-owned grocery store in Brooklyn Center, and Dragon Star, another grocery store in Brooklyn Park. Both stores serve a majority AAPI (Asian American Pacific Islander) and West and East African population. Beginning in May, the van has visited the grocery stores throughout the summer to introduce the library to the store’s customers and connect directly with community members.

“The ultimate goal,” Chaleng Lee, a Brooklyn Park librarian, tells us, “is to share the resources we have here. It’s to say, ‘We are here. We have resources. We are open. You can utilize the library.’” Many of the people with whom HCL staff interact, Chaleng continues, are families who have never visited the library and may not even realize what it has to offer. One of the best parts of the experience has been letting people know how they can sign up for a library card for free, and introducing them to the amazing opportunities and resources await them once they do.

“It’s very rewarding to do what I do,” Chaleng concludes. “To have the van to assist my work in the community is so great. Sometimes when I drive the van, people honk their horns and wave just because they are so excited to see the library logo.”

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The library van parked outside of a grocery store

"The ultimate goal is to just be there to say, ‘We are here. We have resources. We are open. You can utilize the library'." –Chaleng, HCL

The All Are Welcome Van

The All Are Welcome Van, generously funded by Friends of HCL donors, continues to be an invaluable resource to our community and has been since it first hit the road in 2018. It allows library staff to share books, activity kits, games, and other materials with youth in parks across the county, as well as information and resources to communities who have not connected with our library. So, stay on the lookout for the library van. It may be just around the corner!

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