by Kathy Totten, Past President of the Association of Bookmobile and Outreach Services (ABOS), and currently working with Libraries in Thornton, Colorado.
What drives through your neighborhood bringing treats that are enjoyed by kids of all ages? It’s not the ice cream truck. It’s the bookmobile. National Bookmobile Day will be celebrated Wednesday April 13, 2011. This ALA coordinated event celebrates bookmobiles and all types of mobile library services. Bookmobiles are still going strong, and they have enjoyed a long history.
Free town libraries were created in the early years in the 19th century in the United States to provide learning and recreational reading to everyone. Bookmobiles were an early addition to the offerings of these free libraries. No better method has ever been devised for reaching people with library services. Bookmobiles go to the people who can’t easily come to the library.
Bookmobiles have been in service for over 100 years. In 1905 an outreach library project led to the creation of a bookmobile in Hagerstown, Maryland. The horse drawn wagon had shelves on the outside and storage in the center, and resembled a tin peddler’s cart. The 1920 Boston book wagon served New England towns and villages. Cleveland Public Library started the Book Caravan in 1926. Everett Public Library's book wagon known as Pegasus began service in May, 1924. It was a model T Ford truck, later upgraded to a Ford Model AA in 1929.
Bookmobiles are now found in many library systems around the world. The means of transportation includes vans and buses, boats, camels and even donkeys. With today’s modern book and media delivery systems, libraries are still taking their wares to an appreciative public.
New bookmobiles are added continually. Beverly Public Library’s new bookmobile begins service in March 2011 replacing a bookmobile that served the Massachusetts community from 1987 until this year. The new bookmobile is partially funded by private donations. It circulates over 60,000 items a year, more than most small town libraries. San Mateo County Library in California received a 35 foot state of the art bookmobile in March 2011.
Modern bookmobiles have many features found in today’s libraries. They have Internet access, best selling fiction, DVDs, children’s picture books, e-readers and audio books, newspapers, periodicals and teen graphic novels. Today’s bookmobiles are environmentally designed. They use clean burning diesel fuel, solar panels, hybrid generators, inverters, and LED lighting. Many are constructed with recycled materials.
So join the celebration of National Bookmobile Day in your area. Attend the parade, an open house, a program or a party. Get your free sticker, a paper model bookmobile or a bookmark. Join the festivities and celebrate National Bookmobile Day.
Whilbr Western Maryland’s Historical Library, http://www.whilbr.org/bookmobile/index.aspx.
Bookmobile History, http://homepages.nyu.edu/~mg128/History.htm.
Everett Public Library Pegasus, Washington’s first bookmobile, http://www.epls.org/nw/pegasus.asp.
New bookmobile for San Mateo County, http://www.smcl.org/en/content/new-bookmobile-san-mateo-county-library.
Beverly Library to Celebrate New Bookmobile, http://www.salemnews.com/local/x814635710/Beverly-library-to-celebrate-new-bookmobile.