Long before Amazon was bringing books to your doorstep, there was the Bookmobile! A travelling library often used to provide books to villages and city suburbs that had no library buildings, the bookmobile went from a simple horse-drawn cart in the 19th century to large customised vehicles that became part of American culture and reached their height of popularity in the mid-twentieth century. Let’s take a little trip down memory lane with this forgotten four-wheeler…
The Public library of Cincinnati’s first bookmobile, circa 1927 / via the Public library of Cincinnati
A bookmobile in Accra, Ghana 1950s via the UK National Archives
A bus with a view, 1967 / via Bibliobussen
Bookmobile staff / via the Public library of Cincinnati
Bookmobile in Greensboro, North Carolina, USA. 170.770 volumes were circulated in 1936 / via the Crossett Library
Inside a bookmobile, date unknown / via Bibliobussen
“Books free for everybody if you vote “yes” / via the ‘librariana’ collection, Hans Krol.
An early bookmobile horse and cart in Washington D.C / via Crossett Library
An impatient queue for a Dutch bookmobile / via BiblioBussen
Soldiers getting their literary fix at the Kelly Field Library, Texas, c. 1917 – via the Library of Congress.
Onboard the Connecticut State Library’s Bookmobile with Margaret Sullivan and Marcella Finan, 1967/ via Bristol Public Library
“County Library: We Want One,” Rockville Fair, Maryland, 1928. If only folks still felt the same. via Library of Congress.
Eager for books at a bookmobile in Yangon, Myanmar (formerly Rangoon, Burma), c. 1950s via National Archives.
The Library’s bookmobile on Compton Road, circa 1933 / via the Public library of Cincinnati
Utah State Library Bookmobile on the Road circa 1970 / via USL
So what happened to the beloved Bookmobiles?
While there are still a few libraries around that have managed to find a budget for a modern-day bookmobile, sadly, most of the oldies have ended up rotting away in a junkyards or eventually disappeared altogether.
Paul Buttars, former manager of the Utah State Library Bookmobile Program, in one of the “older” bookmobiles. Taken in Chesterfield, UT circa 1975 / via USL
No longer in service, this old TRL bookmobile residing on private property just south of Amanda Park, Washington. Photo taken 19 Dec 2011. (Library Service to this area of rural Washington is now provided by the Amanda Park branch of Timberland Regional Library)/ via Washington State library
The Henderson County Bookmobile bides it’s time before making its last trip to the bone yard. Rest in Peace, or pieces? / via Davis Bell
A bookmobile that has been sitting in the same spot for at least 15 years at 25 West Tamar Road, Trevallyn, Tasmania via May Clarkson
There was one sighting however, of an old bookmobile at the 2007 Burning Man Festival…
Let’s hope there is room in this world for a comeback of the beloved bookmobile. I sure would love to rescue one of these babies and ride off into the sunset with it for my book tour!