Mobile libraries

Last updated:  22 March 2024

Mobile libraries play a vital role in communities throughout NSW, Australia and beyond. 

In rural and remote communities, where population density is low, maintaining a permanent building would be uneconomic, and where many government and commercial services have been discontinued, mobile libraries fulfil an important social need as a meeting place, and distribution point for local community information. In outer urban areas, mobiles often serve as an interim measure for residents of new suburbs that may eventually need a branch library.  

Mobile libraries vary in size and design to suit differing needs and terrains. They offer an effective library service with the flexibility of multiple stops and the ability to reach out into the community and serve outlying areas in ways not possible from a static branch. Modern mobile library vehicles are usually well-equipped with sizeable collections, technology, WiFi and climate control. Many have access for people with a disability and moveable pods that increase internal floor space when the vehicle is stationary. 

Collections provide good browsing capacity and are supported by access to the entire library collection via reserves. Stock is exchanged regularly, usually with a main branch. They offer cost-effective service delivery, particularly in regard to staffing, although the purchase, fit-out and maintenance costs can be considerable. 

Best practice resources

The State Library of NSW commissioned a project to explore the mobile and outreach services that are currently offered by NSW public libraries. The report identifies the range and scope of NSW public library mobile and outreach service models; explores the strengths, weaknesses, benefits and opportunities of different outreach models and provides good practice guidelines for outreach service models in NSW public libraries.

Mobile branch guidelines

The following guidelines are based on Living Learning Libraries. Additional information been added to include scope statements, the mobile first as a branch library, and mobile stops as mobile branch locations. 


To provide public library services and programs via specially designed and equipped vehicle to those people who cannot reach a fixed or static branch library. 


A mobile library - sometimes a division of a public library, using transport means to provide documents and services directly to users as an alternative to access library premises [Item 2.1.8 ISO 2789:2013 (E)]

Activities outside the library premises - a mobile branch library may also be involved in delivering, or supporting, outreach services and programs [Item 3.3.2 - ISO 2789:2013 (E)]

Services and activities include:

  • Lending services to the population to be served i.e. access to the library collections (mobile branch collections may be dedicated or sourced from the library service's greater collection)
  • Technology access e.g. access to information, eMaterials, and the Internet via fixed or portable technology
  • Photocopying, printing, saving to USB
  • WiFi access
  • Readers' advisory services
  • Reference services
  • Inter-library lending
  • Programs, e.g. children's story time or activities, homework help, adult programs
  • Outreach services and support e.g. home library service, and institutional services such as nursing homes, and schools
  • Elements of mobile make spaces

Mobile as a branch

Mobile library services are effectively moveable branch libraries, in that they generally offer the same suite of core services that are provided by a static branch. The availability of user space, the spread of opening hours at any given location, and the lack of access to amenities, are the major differences. There is also (in NSW) a difference between the qualifications required to run a static branch and those required for a mobile branch operator. In many cases the appropriate driver’s licence appears to take precedence over a library qualification (at least in first instance). 

Mobile branch locations

An opportunity exists to redefine mobile stops as branch locations i.e. the mobile branch stop becomes a branch, when the mobile is in attendance. Current nomenclature and structure, albeit unintentionally, could be seen as defining mobile services as an add-on to static services, rather than part of the seamless whole.


  1. Access is provided to a representative range of the library’s services and collections within the mobile branch library, including access to library technology.
  2. The mobile branch library’s schedule and opening hours are appropriate for customers and locations.

Specific guidelines

  1. Mobile branch sites are chosen and reviewed according to criteria developed by the library service with reference to published guidelines.
  2. The mobile branch library size and vehicle type is appropriate for the services and outreach programs delivered from it, and for the access constraints of the locations it services.
  3. The mobile branch library is designed and configured for ease of access and satisfies relevant work health and safety requirements.
  4. Mobile branch library staff are qualified in line with static branch staff, and with reference to staffing standards S7 – Qualified staff members  - minimum level; and S8 Staff members – special responsibility for targeted services.
  5. Mobile branch library staff are appropriately licensed for the type of vehicle employed.
  6. Mobile branch library staff are knowledgeable about the library’s collections, services and procedures, and work health and safety requirements.
  7. Sufficient staff are available to meet demand at high activity stops.
  8. Sufficient backup staff, qualified to drive the vehicle and qualified in library service delivery, are available to maintain continuity of service.
  9. Mobile branch library staff participate in training and professional development programs.
  10. Mobile branch library staff participate in service and program planning.
  11. The mobile branch library vehicle is maintained and replaced according to a planned schedule.
  12. Mobile branch library supports and participates in the delivery of special needs and other outreach services.
  13. Mobile branch library services and programs are measured separately (from static branches and central library) against the population to be served i.e. number of individuals for whom the mobile branch library has been established to provide services and materials. 



  • Join the mobiles email list to connect with other mobile library staff.