How does a library help the environment? One home delivery at a time. And home delivery has been at the forefront of services offered by the Orange County Library System (OCLS) for more than 30 years.
In 1974, residents of Central Florida faced issues that seem familiar to us today. Rising gas prices, increased traffic and energy concerns were becoming part of the fabric of modern life. Glenn Miller, serving as Director of what was still known then as the Orlando Public Library, initiated a books-by-mail program that year.
With the new service, dubbed MAYL (Materials Access from your Library), the Library hoped to accomplish a couple objectives. The first goal was to spread library service throughout Orange County, to include residents who didn’t live close enough or have the means to visit one of the Orange County branches. Secondly, the Library wanted to provide an alternative to driving downtown to pick up a requested book, where traffic and parking frustrations might deter some patrons from making the trip. As a consequence of an active home delivery service, customers would use less gasoline and create less traffic conducting their library-related business.
Fast forward to 2007. Residents in Central Florida still face increasing gas prices and traffic congestion, and concerns about environmental issues continue to grow. Amidst these realities, the OCLS home delivery service has become one of the most popular services offered by the Library. In a 2005 online survey, 97% of respondents called MAYL a “great service”. In 2006, the Library, led by current Director/CEO Mary Anne Hodel, home delivered more than 575,000 requested library items. Nearly every delivery was handled by a local courier company called Priority Express Parcel (PEP). PEP’s fleet of 13 small-sized pick-up trucks saved tens of thousands of library customers from having to get behind the wheel themselves. Consider all the gasoline and exhaust fumes the MAYL service saved by bringing the library to so many front doors across Orange County in just one year. And then remember that OCLS has been doing this for 33 years and counting.
The MAYL program at OCLS serves as a model for public libraries across the country looking to provide innovative service for patrons. Usually, the environmental benefits of a home delivery service are not one of the factors libraries consider when examining the possibility of initiating a similar service. However, it doesn’t take long to realize that, in addition to providing great library service to an increasingly busy population, delivering requested material to library customers does the planet a little good too.