Smitty Miller is taking her love of literacy beyond libraries.
The former children’s librarian for the Fraser Valley Regional Library (FVRL) has taken on a new role as community development coordinator with the intent of instilling the love of reading into those who don’t always feel welcomed at their local libraries.
From Boston Bar to Delta, Miller can be spotted at soup kitchens, food banks, women’s shelters, correctional facilities, and any other area in need of library services.
“I’m taking the library to the streets,” said Miller. “I’m taking services to people who don’t normally feel comfortable coming into the library… those who can’t read, who think libraries are only for smart people, are homeless.”
And she’s doing so with LiLi, a highly visible, souped-up, 2012 Nissan Cube.
LiLi, which stands for Library Live, is a FVRL mobile library initiative, but she’s not your typical bookmobile. Oh no, this little hotrod sports several “un-library-like” features, including a permanently mounted 40-inch TV, Xbox, laptops, a loud external sound system, a built-in bookshelf, and a technology bar.
She also has external, eye-catching components too, like her full vehicle wrap, undercarriage glow, and shiny mag wheels.
When it comes to LiLi, there is absolutely no shushing to be had, said Miller.
And once LiLi captures the attention of an audience, Miller, with her spiky blonde hair, raspy voice, and easy smile, swoops in to talk adult literacy.
She doesn’t judge, she doesn’t lecture, she doesn’t even push the book product. But rather, she starts up conversations, tells those around her her story, what she’s doing, why she’s in their neighbourhood. She lets it be known that books are available, that if desired she can connect them with literacy outreach services in their neighbourhood, as well as other such community services.
As well, she’s waived nearly 1,000 library fines and issued several library cards since LiLi’s launch in April.
Further proof that Miller and LiLi are not the library of old.
“If libraries were just about providing books, we’d be out of business,” Miller said. “I don’t believe in libraries as a fortress of knowledge for just a select few; I believe in libraries as an opportunity for everybody in the community. Libraries are about providing expertise to the whole community.
“In order to stay relevant, it is so important for us to get outside our library walls. If we want people to come to us, we need to hang out on their doorsteps.”
Miller hopes LiLi will a future component for all libraries.