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Books on the Bus returns to the Bow Valley

“It is an in-kind setup to allow people to access books and they don’t have to go to the library to get them."

BOW VALLEY – If you are riding a Roam transit bus, you might just get the chance to grab a library book to help the journey go faster.

The Books on the Bus program is back in operation after a hiatus due to the COVID-19 pandemic, running on the Moose and Sheep Roam buses servicing Route 3 between Banff and Canmore. The program is put on by Roam, the Canmore Public Library and the Banff Public Library.

“It is an in-kind setup to allow people to access books and they don’t have to go to the library to get them,” said Fiona Gagnon, manager of communications and customer experience for Roam.

All you need to do is take a book from the box on the bus, read the book, and return the book to any bus box when you are finished.

The books are restocked on a weekly basis to ensure new titles are available. There are a wide variety of books from children to adults, Gagnon said.

The program started in 2018, but after COVID-19 hit and transit ridership significantly dropped, it was put on hiatus but is now returning for the first time in years. Prior to COVID-19, the program was very popular.

Ridership has more than returned to Roam, with all routes seeing large increases through March of this year compared to the same timeframe in 2019.

From January to March 2019, the Banff and Canmore regional route that has Books on the Bus saw about 43,000 riders. The same three months in 2023 came close to 60,000 riders, roughly 37 per cent increase.

“It started up again recently and our plan is to run it for as long as possible,” Gagnon said. “We are working with the libraries to encourage people to take a moment, put their phone down and grab a book. It also encourages them to reach out to the libraries.”

No library card is needed to check out any of the books.

“The hope is people return them,” Gagnon said. “There is no checking them in or checking them out. The library keeps track of what books are put in and taken out.”

When the program last ran in the Bow Valley, many people found they enjoyed the option of grabbing a book while using public transit.

“People really do like to pick something out,” Gagnon said. “It is a great way to give people access.”

The program will now run continuously, with an option in the future for a possible expansion to other bus lines servicing the Bow Valley.

“We will review annually to ensure the program is working appropriately to ensure it meets expectations,” Gagnon said. “If it needs to expand, that is an option. There has been some interest in having something for Lake Louise, so that might be a conversation in the future.”

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