See Ednita Kelly’s Totally Inspired and Award-Winning Book Bike

The San Pedro librarian’s innovative tome delivery system may signal a new movement

Ednita Kelly isn’t your typical “disruptor.” The 36-year-old Carson native has spent the past decade working in a library, not in tech, so heads turned when Eric Garcetti declared her the 2015 recipient of the Mayor’s Civic Innovation Award late last year. City Hall recognized Kelly for launching the Book Bike, a custom-built, book-toting three-wheeler she rides near the San Pedro branch where she works, issuing library cards and handing out free books and magazines on the go. “The point,” says Kelly, “is to provide a positive interaction with the library and to remind people to come in. We’re still here and have something for you.” The $4,000 vehicle, which can transport up to 250 pounds of literature and doubles as a pop-up athenaeum, has made Kelly something of a local celebrity. “I get stopped on the street,” she says. “People yell out from their cars. Other bicyclists wave. People say, ‘You have ice cream in there?’ And I say, ‘No, I have books!’ ”

Enthusiasm for the concept is on a roll: Several neighborhood councils have expressed interest in purchasing similar vehicles for their own branches. “I’m reaching people,” Kelly says. “Even if I don’t talk to them, they see the bike and it has an impact. They see that the library is busy, that librarians are not just reading books. If we’re not out there, we’re not going to exist in the future.”

Kelly takes reading to the streets of San Pedro
Kelly takes reading to the streets of San Pedro

Photograph by Christina Gandolfo