Hoover Public Library launches first “library in a café”

Hoover Public Library
Hoover’s first remote library locker at East 59. Photo via Olivia Moses

If you can’t make it to the Hoover Public Library — they will come to you!  

This week, Hoover civic leaders and residents held a ribbon cutting ceremony launching the Birmingham area’s first remote locker and library program. 

The location? East 59 Café in The Village at Lee Branch shopping center off U.S. 280 (701 Doug Baker Blvd #103, Birmingham, AL 35242). 

That’s right, a library in a café. Here is how it works.

  • Call the library or go online at hooverlibrary.org and put a book on hold. Select that you want to pick the book up at East 59. 
  • Staff at the Hoover Library main location, will take book orders out to East 59 Café  multiple times a week and put those into secure lockers. It’s like the Amazon lockers you’ve seen around town.
  • When you get to East 59, walk-up to the remote lockers and scan your library card. The locker will open one of those lockers and you’ll be able to get your materials out. 
  • There’s also a secure returns bin onsite so you can put your returns 
  • Anyone with a Jefferson County Library card can use the new program (and that does include folks in Shelby County.

Need a tutorial? Watch the Hoover Public Library Youtube video on how to use the lockers.

Serving Hoover Residents Everywhere

Hoover Library
Hoover’s first remote library locker at East 59 ribbon-cutting. Photo via Olivia Moses

When it comes to finding creative and innovative ways to serve the public, the Hoover Public Library is on a roll.

Earlier this year, Bham Now reported how the Hoover Public Library had installed 15 “little lending libraries” at 15 apartment complexes across town providing children with free books. The program is wildly successful.

Birmingham, Alabama, Crestline, Little Free Library
A Little Free Library in Birmingham. Photo by Terri Robertson for Bham Now

According to Hoover Public Library Amanda Borden, expanding the library’s reach has been intentional.

“When I took this job 5 years ago, the first thing we did was write a strategic plan.  We identified the need to make library service more convenient.  We have a fantastic library…but with 90,000 residents spread out over what has become a large city, we really need branch service.  The East Hoover area (Lee Branch, Inverness, Greystone) is the furthest from our library, so we wanted to start there.

As luck would have it, E59 (a local café) who operates inside the Hoover Library was building a new full-service location in Lee Branch.  We thought “We have a café in a library, wouldn’t it be great if we had a library in a café, too?” So we partnered with E59-whose mission like ours is to be a real community gathering space.  They were thrilled to house the remote locker.”

Thanks to Technology Manager Carrie Steinmehl, the HPL  secured funding for the book locker through a federal Library Services in Technology Act (LSTA) grant that is administered by the Alabama Public Library Services (APLS).  The city of Hoover also chipped in some funds making the project possible.

 

More Than a Locker – A Community Space

Hoover Public Library
Hoover’s first remote library locker at East 59 ribbon-cutting. Photo via Olivia Moses

Beyond the lockers, East 59 has announced they will lend their space twice a week for children and adult library programs. 

The place will truly become a library in a café.

“We hope to one day have a full branch library in the East Hoover area, but until the economy cooperates, we’re thrilled to be able to offer a place to pick up materials, return materials and attend programs,  Anything we can do to move library service beyond our 4 walls and into the community is a priority for us,” concluded Borden.

Are you going to visit East 59 and try out their remote lockers and take in a program? Let us know what it’s like by tagging us on social media at @bhamnow

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Pat Byington
Longtime conservationist. Former Executive Director at the Alabama Environmental Council and Wild South. Publisher of the Bama Environmental News for more than 18 years. Career highlights include playing an active role in the creation of Alabama's Forever Wild program, Little River Canyon National Preserve, Dugger Mountain Wilderness, preservation of special places throughout the East through the Wilderness Society and the strengthening (making more stringent) the state of Alabama's cancer risk and mercury standards.
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