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Thursday, January 15, 2009

Bookmobiles

I can still remember the excitement I felt as a kid when the bookmobile came to our neighborhood. Climbing up into the truck into a world of books, I was like a kid in a candy store. Or I guess a bookstore. Here's a bookmobile postcard picture of the Texas State Library Bookmobile, circa late 1950s. The bookmobiles I remember were not much later than this one.


This bookmobile has Bookmobile Demonstration printed on its side. Curious about that wording (was this a demo vehicle for libraries and other potential buyers?), I did some digging and found the Federal Library Services Act of 1956, which helped counties promote and develop library services in rural areas. It also helped urban areas cope with a rapidly growing suburbia. Bookmobile demonstration projects helped promote the growth of rural and suburban community library systems. So the Texas State Library must have gotten funding to send the Bookmobile Demonstrations out into needy areas to promote the need for community libraries.

But I also the found Bookmobile Demonstration on the back of one of the photos (dated 1939) in this fine Nebraska collection. So obviously, the term did not arise from the 1956 legislation. I suppose library demonstrations go back to even the days of Parnassus on Wheels. Speaking of which, I found reference to Christopher Morley's Parnassus on flickr.com along with a nice collection of bookmobile photos.

I had not given much thought, if any, to bookmobiles in many years until I came across this and this on Exile Bibliophile awhile back. That sent me looking for a piece of nostalgic ephemera from my youth and now I have it in the form of the postcard above.

So where have all the Bookmobiles gone? I haven't seen any in years, so I started poking around the Web and I'm happy to report that they seem to be alive and kicking. Sure, there are plenty of stories about their demise because of lack of need or funding. Perhaps the mission of the Bookmobile Demonstration succeeded in helping communities realize the need for a library and their subsequent development ushered in the decreasing demand and eventual elimination of some.

But the Bookmobile keeps rolling in many communities around the country. Around the world for that matter. Checking the blogosphere, I find bloggers blogging about bookmobiles from a Vermont librarian to a Roanoke, Virginia photographer to Gertie down in South Louisiana. There is even a four-legged (not wheeled) version of mobile book transport called the Biblioburro. And while some libraries have had to discontinue their bookmobile service, others are getting service started in their communities, such as the Salinas Public Library in California.

And for community libraries in the market for a bookmobile, are there brochures like this anymore?



8 comments:

  1. I had a lot of fun reading this post, and visiting the links you provided. It brought back a lot of memories! Thanks for posting it. Great blog overall, too!

    ReplyDelete
  2. Thanks, Frank--I appreciate the comments! I figured (hoped) a lot of people would have fond memories of the bookmobiles that rolled into their younger years. And I'm glad to see they're still rolling.

    ReplyDelete
  3. was looking for bookmobile images to post... but you pretty much said it all. brilliant.

    ReplyDelete
  4. James, glad you found something here you could use. Thanks for the compliment and for taking time to post a comment. -Chuck

    ReplyDelete
  5. Hi, Chuck..I was writing about bookmobiles and found your nifty-keen blog when I googled Bookmobile. So I linked to it:
    http://lakinkhan.blogspot.com/2009/09/bookmobiles-and-festivals.html

    While I am writing primarily about libraries on my blog, I want to revisit bookmobiles more thoroughly at a later date.
    Thanks for your post!

    ReplyDelete
  6. Hi, Lakin,

    Thanks for the look and the link. If you haven't already come across Larry Nix's blog about library history (didn't see a link to it on your blog), it'd be worth a look. I think you'd enjoy it.

    http://libraryhistorybuff.blogspot.com/

    ReplyDelete
  7. Thanks, Anon, for reading... and the comment!

    ReplyDelete

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