Bay Area/ San Francisco
Published on February 16, 2015
Introducing Bibliobicicleta, The Panhandle's Mobile Library

Photos via Bibliobicicleta

On Tuesdays from 6pm-8pm, a roving bicycle-powered community library called Bibliobicicleta visits the Panhandle.

We caught up with founder Alicia Tapia, a school librarian and digital literacy instructor at De Marillac Academy in the Tenderloin, to find out more about the project.

How did you get started?

"The whole campaign/mission started in 2013, it was fully funded by generous backers by December 2013. There were some bumps in the road with construction (the guy who was initially was supposed to do it ran off with $500). However, a very talented carpenter came into the picture and constructed the fine shelf we display our books on.

"I am pretty much the person that does it, no one else rides it around but me, it has definitely become my baby and there have been quite some adventures getting around the city with it. I am supported greatly by close friends who are librarians and book lovers. If it weren't for my supporters, people in the community, and my friends it would have been a lot harder to get everything together. I'm just glad the idea came to fruition and wasn't written off as something silly."

What inspired this project?

"A personal need for me to reconnect with literature and books instead of getting sucked into technology. I think books rub their goodness off on us, and I needed something to pull me back into the real world. I am a digital literacy teacher, and being surrounded by technology all day also makes me want to balance it out with no-technology. For me, that's books and people.

"That's what the Bibliobicicleta does, pulls us all back into community, with the excuse of talking about how much we love reading and are willing to share books. A fellow librarian at my old job inspired me to ride my bicycle more often in the city, then we started joking about pulling books on the back of our bikes, then one day I thought I'd better just make it happen, and I did!"

Tell us how the books get to you. 

"Books come from people in the community. I have not once had to buy books, it's an awesome 'circulation system' powered solely by the people. No fines, no due dates, just read! I have some library overflow of books. There are many Friends of the Bibliobicicleta, if you will."

Why the Panhandle? 

"The Panhandle community used to be my home and when I started the Bibliobicicleta that was the first spot I went to. First of all, it's got a steady flow of people on bikes, dog-walking, playing in the park, people seeking open air, people who want to sweat their bodies and sweat their brains. It's flat ... it's beautiful.

"My most regular 'hours' are Tuesday, 6pm-8pm in the Panhandle, which is after I'm done with work at the school. The clientele on those evenings (when the sun is still out) is parents walking or biking home with their kids, people walking their dogs, people riding their bikes that hear "Free Books!" and then stop to see what's up ... always friendly people."

Do homeless people take advantage of Bibliobicicleta?

"When homeless neighbors walk by they definitely come and take a free book, they are a population that I hold dear to me because I think a lot of people don't show them the compassion they deserve. To have a library card, you need a proof of permanent address, if you don't have that you can't check out books. Bibliobicicleta is transient, no due dates, no money required, just hoping that more take the time to appreciate and grow by reading no matter who you are."

How can people stay up-to-date on the project?

"We're on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and That's the best way for people to keep updated on future developments (because there are some in store) and to double-check that I'll be in the spots I say I'll be in."

Catch Alicia in the Panhandle tomorrow evening, and follow her using the above resources to keep track of where the Bibliobicicleta will be rolling to next.