Where does the name ‘The Power of the Pedal’ come from? The pedal part is easy – we’re all about providing services by bicycle. Power is more involved. Who has power and who doesn’t? How does a person get power? How can power change a person’s life? And how do you get one from one place to another – by your own power, or do you need the power of someone/something else?
The Bookbike provides a way for the library to equalize power with members of the Tucson community who are often not served by traditional governmental institutions. It can be intimidating to walk into a library and have to approach the desk and ask a question. At some desks, the staff person is sitting up higher than the customer is standing, giving a feeling of an imbalance of power. With the Bookbike, people are standing equally next to each other, sharing a love of books and reading. And hopefully folks in the community will then feel comfortable walking into a library knowing that someone that they already met was friendly and not intimidating.
We all know that knowledge is power. Providing free books, whether informational or just to escape from daily reality, confers some level of power on the person who reads it. And providing free reading glasses so people can read, no matter how small the print, also provides a level of freedom and power. When someone is living on the edge, they often have limited possessions, and a book and a pair of reading glasses can sometimes be two of their most prized items.
For someone who is homebound, their sense of power can really be limited. They often have to depend on others to either take them where they want to go, or to bring materials to them. Books on Wheels ambassadors bring a world to someone’s doorstep. The ambassadors are the ones pedaling the bike and books over, but the camaraderie and friendship raise this book delivery to another level. And the books themselves can transport someone who is homebound to an entirely different world, at least for a little while.
Power imbalances play out in many ways. On the roadways, drivers exert power over bicyclists and pedestrians. In our lives, race, gender, wealth, and education help determine what path you may take. The Bookbike and Books on Wheels work towards equalizing power differences between various segments of society. We create access and opportunities by using bicycles as a vehicle to provide books, community connections and education.
That’s the power of the pedal.