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Celebrate National Bookmobile Day

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Source: American Library Association

National Bookmobile Day is coordinated by the ALA Office for Literacy and Outreach Services (OLOS), the Association of Bookmobile and Outreach Services (ABOS), and the Association for Rural & Small Libraries (ARSL) as part of National Library Week.

One of my favorite memories of growing up in the 1960s was of visiting the bookmobile when it made its stop about a quarter mile down the road from my home every two weeks. My siblings and I would ride our bikes—all equipped with a wire book basket—and were each allowed to check out 5 books. Sadly, it would only take me a couple days to breeze through those books and then I would have to wait until the bookmobile made its next visit. What I wouldn’t have given for a Nook or a Kindle back in the day!

800px-Orange_County_Public_Library_Bookmobile,_circa_1965

Orange County Public Library Bookmobile, circa 1965
By Orange County Archives [CC BY 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons

The idea of bookmobiles was developed by Librarian Mary L. Titcomb of the Washington County Free Library in Hagerstown, Maryland, in April 1905. Titcomb was concerned that her library was not meeting the needs of patrons in the rural communities surrounding Hagerstown. She packed a black wagon pulled by two horses with books and sent it out driven by the library’s janitor.

Within a few years mobile libraries came into use, and by the mid-20th century bookmobiles were a part of American life. Over 2,000 bookmobiles traveled the rural roads and inner-city streets to provide library services to areas that had no actual library buildings. Bookmobiles also provided resources to groups and individuals—senior citizens, disabled people, child-care centers—who were unable to visit a library building.

Ypsilanti_District_Library_Bookmobile

By Dwight Burdette (Own work) [CC BY 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons

By the 1980s the number of bookmobiles began to decline due to financial cut-backs and the cost of running and maintaining the bookmobiles. Although there are fewer than 1,000 bookmobiles in use in the U.S. today, they still provide great value to the patrons that visit them and have even expanded their services to include items like computers, internet workstations, DVDs, and video games as well as other programs and classes.

We’d like to hear your favorite stories about bookmobiles and how they impacted your life. Please Share below.

To learn more about the history of bookmobiles, visit our eLibrary Research Topic Page: Bookmobiles.

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