Mellor Coachcraft Mobile Library for Shropshire Council
When Shropshire Council discovered the previous builder of their mobile libraries had gone out of business, it turned to Mellor Coachcraft to provide a new one.
A chance conversation with Mellor’s Geoff Hudson at a show and the council’s Commercial Vehicle Manager, Andy Maiden, set minds to work, not just on replacing the original vehicle but building a much more innovative and modern equivalent.
“The council were stuck,” said Mr Hudson, Managing Director of Mellor parent group, Woodall Nicholson Ltd. “They had a six-year-old mobile library which needed replacing and nobody to build it. I knew we could…”
The council had other mobile libraries over 10 tonnes but did not want the replacements to be heavier than 7.5 tonnes so that HGV driving licences did not become a problem. Mellor and Shropshire Council – which runs four mobile libraries – tackled the design as a partnership so they could get the right vehicle.
The Council was keen to use a DAF chassis to take advantage of a good, local dealership, and Mellor worked with them to design the new mobile library from scratch, ensuring that it is wheelchair accessible and would suit both the librarians and the book borrowers: “It was quite a technical challenge which drew on our expertise of creating bespoke glass-fibre [GRP] mouldings, some of which replaced panels which would traditionally have been made from wood laminate,” said Mr Hudson.
One major issue had been service access to the previous vehicles’ engines, so it was essential the new vehicle had a tilting cab. At the same time, the driver needed to be able to have direct access to the library without leaving the vehicle. Again, Mellor’s skill in working with GRP was invaluable in resolving this issue.
The resulting vehicle has many innovations which go beyond its basic purpose. It has heating which works independently of the engine and does not require a mains connection; it has air conditioning; and it has a colour-coded LED lighting system which helps borrowers find the right library section. In addition it has an ‘office’ for the librarian, and there is a children’s library.
“We needed people to come on board so we wanted something different on the outside to invite them in,” said Andy Maiden. “You can advertise on the outside of a vehicle but people don’t know what you do. So we decided to turn the inside out by ‘vinyl wrapping’ the whole vehicle in a depiction of what’s inside,” said Andy Maiden.
“When entering into the decision on who should build this mobile library, we chose Mellor because we worked well with them in the past. We have honest and frank conversations and we are extremely comfortable with the outcome.
“An initial five-year lifespan was the primary aim. After that, a design which could be refurbished and refreshed, as the vehicle only does low mileage. It’s got a planned fleet life of between 7-10 years.”
“We believe this is a great example of how we work closely with our customers to ensure they get what they require,” said Geoff Hudson. “Much the specification came during the build from Andrew Maiden, but some of the lighting ideas came from one of our shopfloor workers, which I think says a lot about the skill of our staff and their creativity.”
Following delivery of the mobile library – which will cover areas such as Oswestry, Ellesmere, Llanymynech and the North West of Shropshire– Mellor has had a further three orders from local authorities for similar vehicles.
“We are, of course, pleased that we have further orders but taking an idea and making it real is what we do. We have built everything from mobile health units to banks and relish a challenge,” said Mr Hudson.