The Bethlehem Area Public Library recently received a “book bike” donated by IronPigs Charities. This organization, associated with the Lehigh Valley IronPigs baseball team, focuses on supporting youth education and recreation in the Lehigh Valley.
The book bike is technically a tricycle, with a big box attached to the front that opens up to a few bookshelves. It can be ridden to different places around Bethlehem, functioning as a pop-up library.
“It’s so neat,” said Josh Berk, the library’s executive director. “If you see it riding around it’s very eye-catching and everyone that sees it finds it funny. It’s a very good promotion tool.”
Berk said not many people manufacture these types of bikes, and since it was donated to them during the pandemic, it was difficult to receive certain parts to actually use it. Despite the two-year wait, Berk said this wasn’t a problem and is just excited it’s here.
The library’s outreach department will be using the bike to put up displays at local city park programs, schools and community events. People who attend will be able to check out books and sign up for a library card.
Bethany Grib, member of the circulation department at the library, said the bike is an effective way to reach communities that aren’t able to come to the library often due to a lack of reliable transportation options.
“People no longer have to always find transportation, we come to them as well,” Grib said.
The manufacturing of the book bike was not the only setback the library experienced during the pandemic. There was a period of time when the library had to close due to COVID-19.
“People were very anxious,” Berk said. “The library isn’t a place where people are living in close quarters, but it’s a place where you share a lot of stuff and no one really knew at the time how the virus was spreading.”
While many establishments started to reopen towards the end of 2020 and beginning of 2021, the BAPL was not as quick to return. Berk said there have always been several issues due to budget, funding and politics affecting all libraries in the area, but all of this was heightened by the pandemic.
Although they wanted to reopen for people’s convenience, Berk said he didn’t want to put anyone at risk.
“It was definitely the weirdest thing I’ve had to live through as a librarian and director. I had to make a lot of calls and didn’t necessarily know what the right answer was,” Berk said.
Berk said as the library moves into November 2022, their metrics tell them they are almost back to where they were prior to COVID-19 as far as business goes. With donations like the book bike, there are new opportunities for them to remind the community that they are back and open for the long run.
Berk said the IronPigs Charities do a nice job providing grant programs to support places in the community like the Boys and Girls Club and athletic programs that kids are involved in.
According to their website, the IronPigs have been able to fundraise and donate over $1.2 million to non-profit organizations throughout the region.
Bethlehem resident Terri Rinehold said the IronPigs positively impact the community.
Growing up in the area, Rinehold said she has been going to the library since she was a kid. She said she always liked it there because it’s quiet and provides her with a place to read the local newspaper.
Rinehold said she can see herself checking out the book bike if she sees it around.
“It sounds like a good idea for the kids and other places around town,” Rinehold said.
With the book bike officially up and running, Berk said the library is ready to attend more events as the year continues, and they are thankful for the IronPigs’ gift to them.
“I think it’s awesome to see an organization like them supporting the community,” Grib said. “We’re all in the Lehigh Valley, we’re all here together, so I think it’s great.”