Library unveils new mobile programming platform: Branch 7

Posted 11/22/23

A brand new van with a snazzy logo will be parked all around Cranston in the coming year, loaded up with books, tech, and librarians on a mission to bring library services to folks in …

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Library unveils new mobile programming platform: Branch 7


A brand new van with a snazzy logo will be parked all around Cranston in the coming year, loaded up with books, tech, and librarians on a mission to bring library services to folks in Cranston’s most underserved communities. The Branch 7 Van is on the move!

Branch 7 is a mobile programming station, equipped to connect folks across the city with all the resources our libraries have to offer. One among several new programs the Cranston Public Library is implementing to achieve the goal of putting a library card in every student’s hands. When looking at a map showing the concentration of library card holders across the city with a program called Policy Map, Library Director Edward Garcia saw a distinctly sparse area in the northernmost section of Cranston.

“We noticed that the census tract 147, which is over Arlington School Stadium, had the lowest library card adoption for children in the city,” Garcia said. “It also happens to be the area where we have the weakest library services.”

The neighborhoods making up census tract 147 and other similar tracts border the Silverlake and West End neighborhoods in Providence. They are among the most diverse, and among the poorest in the city. It is a neighborhood with no full service library. While there is a small library outpost at the Senior Enrichment Center on Cranston Street, it is not equipped for the type of programming the library can offer at other, larger locations.

Garcia said “There's no room for storytimes or ESL classes, computer classes, any of the stuff that you normally see at a full service library.”

Building a new full branch in the area is being discussed, but is a process that would take years to come to fruition. In the meantime, something needed to be done!

At the same time as these discussions were being held, the library was also looking to purchase a new van to deliver inter-branch deliveries, at the height of pandemic supply-chain troubles. When a van finally came available, the librarians realized they could kill two birds with one stone.

“Let’s use it to do our delivery,” Garcia said. “But let’s also try to outfit it and use it for outreach.”

With a $19,000 grant from Rhode Island Office of Library and Information Services, the library outfitted the van with everything it needed to be a mobile outreach station. It was dubbed “Branch 7” to represent the neighborhoods in which the library hopes to one day build its seventh official branch.

On days when the library goes out into these underserved neighborhoods, it’s loaded up with children’s books, with a few books for parents as well. The van is wi-fi enabled, and visitors have access to laptops and a scanner. Stools for reading and working, and games to play are available as well. All the while, librarians sit ready to check out or return books, and to assist in signing up for a library card.

But one may ask, without a library easily available in the neighborhood, what good is signing up for a library card? As it turns out, much of what the library offers doesn’t require a building at all, only a smart phone.

“As part of our membership in Ocean State libraries, we offer a large collection of e-books and digital audiobooks that are free to borrow,” Garcia said. “One is called Hoopla and one’s called Kanopy.”

Garcia continued “There’s a lot of other databases and digital services, some that we offer, and some that are offered from the state. There are research databases, business databases. There’s a language program called Mango Languages. We have genealogy programs.”

The Branch 7 program was soft launched at OneCranston Health Equity Zone’s final Farmer’s Market at the Huddle Center on Nov. 18. The van was parked outside with a desk set up beneath a tent to keep out the November rains. Folks heading to the farmer’s market were able to stop in to return books or sign up for a library card. Cold weather may keep the van from making many appearances this winter, but is ready to roll once the weather turns around in spring of 2024.  

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