Miami-Dade Library converts old bookmobile into modern Technobus

Marlon Moore teaches 7-year-old Maria Teresa Lombardi how to use a 3D printer aboard Miami-Dade Library’s new Technobus.
Marlon Moore teaches 7-year-old Maria Teresa Lombardi how to use a 3D printer aboard Miami-Dade Library’s new Technobus.

To accommodate a generation that prefers to read on their devices rather than hardcovers or paperbacks, the Miami-Dade County Public Library System has converted one of its old bookmobiles into a mobile computer lab.

“The Technobus was built to make sure those in high-need communities who do not have access to technology can have the access they need so they don’t fall behind when the latest technology gets released,” said Marlon Moore, the library’s media project coordinator.

“This bus has been a long time coming,” Moore said. “The library is aware of what’s happening with the introduction of new technology and the demand for digital literacy. We want our constituents to be prepared for the new technology so they’re not left behind. We want the public to be producers of digital content — not just consumers.”

Miami-Dade Library’s new Technobus, formerly an old bookmobile. REINALDO LLERENA

The Technobus, a mobile computer lab, features a 3D printer, 11 workstations for classes and a wide variety of software including all Adobe Creative Cloud applications, such as Photoshop, Premiere and Lightroom. The bus also houses a Phantom IV drone, which is used to help make movies with aerial footage, MacBooks and a variety of laptops. The Technobus runs four days a week, and there is a librarian always on board. The bus is also ADA-compliant. People with disabilities can access the bus through a wheelchair lift.

Classes are offered in digital photo editing, music production, videography and graphic design. Each class can hold a maximum of 11 students.

It cost approximately $300,000 to retrofit the bus with all the new technology.

Digital music devices onboard Miami-Dade Library’s new Technobus. REINALDO LLERENA

Currently, the Technobus is parked outside senior centers in the mornings and outside libraries and youth organizations in the afternoon. Since the bus’ introduction in May, the reaction from seniors has been mixed, Moore said.

“The seniors feel daunted whenever they step onto a bus full of technology like this one,” Moore said. “Some want to learn and some don’t. Some are just scared of the new technology and some want to jump in so they can talk with their relatives over social media. It usually depends on the person, but for the most part, the reaction from seniors has been mostly positive.”

For instructors, the biggest concern is not working with frustrated seniors. Diana Arguello, Technobus’ media project instructor, is more worried about the technology itself malfunctioning.

“The biggest fear for Marlon and I is something on the bus not working,” Arguello said. “There is no dedicated technician on board so usually we have to self-diagnose the problems. I often have to Google the problem and find a fix myself. If the Wi-Fi on the bus goes down, then everything gets shut down and we have to take the bus back to maintenance to get the internet working again.”

Currently, the library is working out a Technobus schedule, similar to that of bookmobiles. This summer, the bus will stop in local parks and youth organizations, such as Big Brothers Big Sisters.

“Right now we’re trying to get a feel for the areas,” Arguello said. “We’re trying to see which communities need the Technobus the most. So, we’re visiting as many locations as possible over the summer to increase digital literacy to those that need it most.”