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?
Twenty-Five Years of Book Collecting: A Look Back and a Look Forward - This is a talk I gave at the Book Lovers' and Texana Collectors' Breakfast, March 6, 2015, Texas State Historical Association Meeting, Corpus Christi. A r...
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