News & Opinion

Village Post Office Coming to a Library Near You?

by on June 4, 2014

Rural libraries have recently joined with the United States Postal Service to provide postal services right inside the library. The United States Post Office, facing reduced hours and closures—particularly in sparsely populated towns—seeks willing partners to house a Village Post Office (VPO). Public Libraries, General Stores, and other storefronts enter into an agreement with the United States Postal Service to provide village post offices at their sites in exchange for an annual sum.1 At a time when thousands of post offices face reduced hours, village post offices planted in public libraries in places like Burt, Iowa; Ephrata, Pa; and Moline, Mich. The VPO service packs the convenience of one-stop shopping and convenient hours with the added benefits of preserving the unique zip code of the town—which would be lost without a postal location—along with the obvious marketing advantage for the public library.

Susan Hildreth, Director of Institute of Museum and Library Services, blogged in “Is a Village Post Office Coming to a Library Near You?” in 2012, “When a rural post office reduces hours, people often feel that in addition to losing a place to receive and send mail, they have lost a place that gives their community an identity and a place where neighbors can meet and share news.”2 Public libraries have always held together the fabric of the community with easy access to resources. VPOs seem to be a natural extension for increased access for the entire community when they are paired with the accessibility, customer service, and convenient hours of the public library. Potential for increased foot traffic, customer appreciation, along with the extension of a service inside an established community resource, seems like an obvious win.

Libraries with VPOs report that very little training is required for library staff, and to date there’s been few negative concerns raised by participating libraries. The first public library VPO made Library Journal news in Meredith Schwartz’s “Libraries Could Double As Post Offices.” Schwartz reported when rural Leighton Township Library was under threat of closure in 2012, Library Director Andrea Estelle considered what she’d recently learned from USPS officials earlier in that year about how to offer the community a VPO.3 As the first library location in the country to offer a VPO, the Leighton Township Library reported relative ease for its VPO rollout. The Library received approximately $3,800 per year, which varies by locations, and the contract can be cancelled with 30-days’ notice and without penalty.4

Some of the conveniences VPOs offer include: stamps, mail center kiosks, and post office boxes. To add to the legitimacy and the trusted anchor that the USPS represents, out front you’ll find the blue mailbox and signage bearing the USPS logo and the unique zip code of the community. These iconic symbols remind visitors that their VPO-library hybrid is very much official.

In May 2012 the 600th VPO was opened in two Kansas City, Missouri public Libraries: The Lucile H. Bluford Library and North-East Branch Library.5  Kansas City KSHB Action News 41 announced the VPO openings in their Breaking News story.6 There could be as many as 2,450 libraries rural areas affected by post office closures7—a couple of thousand more opportunities to increase public library service and potentially save a unique zip code from disappearing.

For more information on opening a Village Post Office see USPS Village Post Office.

RESOURCES

  1. Meredith Schwartz, “Libraries Could Double As Post Offices,” Library Journal.com (August 2012).
  2. Susan Hildreth, “Is a Village Post Office Coming to a Library Near You?” Up   q11 Next IMLS Blog, August 22, 2012.
  3. Meredith Schwartz, “Libraries Could Double As Post Offices,” Library Journal.com (August 2012).
  4. Ibid.
  5. Lu, “USPS Expanding Village Post Offices inside Libraries,” Postal Reporter.com News Blog, May 2014.
  6. Sarah Hollenbeck, “US Postal Service opening two new post offices in Kansas City public libraries,” KSHB 41 Kansas City, May 5, 2014.
  7. Meredith Schwartz, “Libraries Could Double As Post Offices,” Library Journal.com (August 2012).

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1 comment

  1. Kathy Middleton says:

    Jun 28, 2014

    Cool!! Thanks for sharing that. Does the service bring in any people who’ve never visited the library?

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