For many of us, food trucks conjure up images of mouth-watering tacos, burgers and fries. But three enterprising Arizona State University students see food trucks and envision e-readers, computers and books, instead.
Enter BiblioTrucka, a cost-effective new-age mobile library conceived by the student trio to serve primarily low-income schools and communities lacking basic library resources. The ASU team hatched the idea of converting retired food trucks into libraries on wheels as part of their Changemaking in Education course co-taught by ASU’s Mary Lou Fulton Teachers College and Teach For America.
The course challenges students to take on real-world education challenges and then problem-solve solutions. Instead of writing a paper or taking a final, each student group is encouraged to apply for an ASU Innovation Challenge grant of up to $10,000 to implement their idea. Additionally, groups applied for funding from the Clinton Global Initiative University being hosted by former President Bill Clinton at ASU, March 21-23, 2014.
“Schools across the Valley facing a major obstacle applied to the class and made presentations to us,” said ASU senior Alex Miller, a nonprofit leadership and management major. “Jasmine, Elijah and I had all ranked library access as our top interest, so we were matched up with each other and with NFL Youth Education Town (YET) Academy in south Phoenix, which does not have a library.”
“I have a big passion for education, especially Indian education issues happening back in my Navajo Nation homeland,” Allan said. “The thing that most attracted me to this course was that you could apply for an Innovation Challenge grant and possibly get funding for your idea.”
He said the students were cognizant of the need to keep costs low in order to make BiblioTrucka affordable for low-income schools and communities. At the same time, they created a model that includes digital learning tools, books and a projector for sharing presentations and films. It also features windows, a ramp and a roll-up door for increased accessibility.
“We wanted to build our library on a food truck platform to fit in with the whole food truck movement,” Allan explained. “Our concept was to take a used food truck and renovate it to fit our mobile library idea.”
Down the road, the students foresee the BiblioTrucka concept expanding to other charter schools without libraries, as well as the school communities. On its website, the group notes that charter schools have a harder time securing funds for resources and extra-curricular activities than do traditional schools. It also points out that Phoenix has only 13 public libraries compared to 41 public libraries in Houston, a city of comparable population size.
“The great thing about BiblioTrucka is that it can be customized to fit anyone’s needs,” [Jasmine ] Clarke-Telfer [another member of the project] said. “Here in Phoenix we have a large Hispanic population, so we can fill it with books that speak to that community. If we go to where Elijah’s from, the Navajo Nation, we can fill it with books about their cultural ties.”
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Direct to BiblioTrucka Project Website
Note: BiblioTrucka Segment Begins at 15:38 (From Arizona PBS)