Thursday, March 4, 2010

Have Books, Will Travel

I was inspired to write this post after seeing one of these multi-purpose vehicles in a children's movie, Kitt Kittredge: An American Girl (2008). So pull up a chair and enjoy a quick lesson on the history of the bookmobile!

Known most commonly as bookmobiles or mobile libraries, they are designed to store and carry books to those people and communities that have difficulty accessing libraries out of their own means. These wonderful means of transportation have come a long way, from being conceived circa 1900 and consisting of a horse and wagon that bore such names as book wagon, surrogate branch library, and field libraries.
 The first true bookmobile was on an International Harvester Autowagon in 1912, and the idea quickly spread across America after that, with custom-built bookmobiles becoming an inexpensive way for libraries to provide literature to the poor. These mobile libraries were quickly designed to be a "walk-in" with a coal stove. In 1937, the American Library Association formally recognized the need for book mobiles with an advisory volume titled Book Automobiles. After WWI and WWII, funding for libraries increased rapidly and bookmobiles gain attention, resources, and sophistication.

Some of the more modern versions of the bookmobile have computer equipment on board outfitted with internet connections. A Digital Bookmobile has even been implemented by Overdrive, which is a 74-foot, 18-wheel tractor-trailer that promotes downloadable eBooks, audiobooks, music, and video as it traverses the country.
Mobile libraries do not necessarily need wheels to operate. A Camel Library Service operates in Kenya, Garissa, Wajir, and Somalia that uses 12 camels as of 2006, delivering over 7000 books daily in English, Somali, and Swahili. It inspired the novel The Camel Bookmobile by Masha Hamilton.
There is also a donkey-drawn mobile library in Zimbabwe that delivers access to books, internet, and multimedia, as well as two book mules or "biblioburros" in Columbia and Venezuela that are used to carry books through the mountains.

A floating library even operates on the coast of Norway, the bookboat Epos, which has room for six thousand books and supplements its services with cultural activities for children in the three counties it services.

Audrey Niffennegger has written a graphic novel titled The Night Bookmobile that is set to release September 1st, 2010. It can also be found in series at

Information on bookmobiles / mobile libraries can be found at:
Bookmobile: Defining Information Poor
Bookmobile on Wikipedia
The Bookmobile

Lesson complete!

Have you ever used a bookmobile?


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