Laurier library launches “Books to Go” contactless, multi-campus print material delivery service for staff, students and faculty

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Photo by Darien Funk

In July 2020, the Wilfrid Laurier University library launched a new and innovative “Books to Go” service to allow students, staff and faculty to access print materials and books via a contactless delivery at predetermined pick-up locations within the Waterloo, Brantford and Kitchener campuses. 

Books to Go, which was launched on July 23 as a result of the phased re-opening of Laurier services, allows users to remotely request materials through Omni, Laurier’s online portal for searching and accessing library and e-resources, and then pick them up at specific areas. 

The areas and times vary based on the WaterlooBrantford and Kitchener campuses: Waterloo pick-up is available on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 9:00 am – 11:00 am; Kitchener pick-up is available on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 11:30 am – 12:30 pm; and Brantford pick-up is available by appointment.  

“People request [materials] online, the staff pre-process the items — meaning they charge it out to somebody in advance, [then] they package it up in a brown paper bag like a curbside pick-up [takeout bag],” said Scott Gillies, Laurier’s associate librarian. 

“[They] approach, give their last name, and we pull the package out of the [book delivery] van, put it on the table, people pick it up, and away they go.” 

The Books to Go service was developed out of a need for the university to support their staff, faculty and students in a way that was accessible and available to as many people as possible, as well as a desire to accomodate the needs of a multi-campus institution like Laurier.  

“[We knew that] whatever is available at Waterloo needs to be available in Brantford [and] needs to be available in Kitchener … our building does not provide, architecturally, an opportunity for any kind of curbside delivery,” said Gohar Ashoughian, Laurier’s librarian and archivist. 

“So the idea of the ‘Bookmobile’ was born … we decided that we [were] going to … make sure the services are available for everyone, everywhere.” 

There were a number of staff and faculty within the university involved with the development of the Books to Go service, which involved a large internal process of consultation and planning among various university departments.  

“It has been an incredible amount of work that happened behind the scenes to make sure all of this became a reality, and organized in a systematic way,” Ashoughian said. 

The service itself is also a unique approach to providing materials and resources to staff, students and faculty compared to other Ontario universities.   

“I think we thought totally outside of the library box. It’s something on wheels, something that moves … it was such a commitment, to make sure that things happened right,” Ashoughian said.  

“Most campuses have simply provided access [to some materials] … and in most of those cases, they’re only opening one, two, maybe three of their multi-campus system,” Gillies said. 

For a department like the Laurier library, navigating and adapting to a situation like this has been a difficult, ongoing process. 

“It was challenging [for us]— it took a long time, longer than we had hoped it would, [but] it eventually paid off and it’s been quite safe,” Gillies said. 

“I think we try to be innovative, we certainly do a lot of innovative things, but we’re also caught between two worlds … we’ve had to take the most traditional parts of our collections, the print materials, and then try to figure out how to deliver them to people in an innovative way.” 

“[So I want to] thank all the staff involved as well, because they’ve had to be really flexible, they’ve had to be willing to change … some of these folks have been [some of] the first folks to come back onto the campus to do the work — so they’ve been brave as well as flexible,” he said. 

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