Celebrating National Bookmobile Day at the ALA Archives

Fraser Valley Union Library Bookmobile. ALA0002246. Found in record series 18/1/57, Box 5, Folder: Bookmobile - Outside Shelving, 1939-1976
Fraser Valley Union Library Bookmobile. Found in record series 18/1/57, Box 5, Folder: Bookmobile – Outside Shelving, 1939-1976

A relatively new addition to National Library Week, the first National Bookmobile Day was celebrated in 2010, to recognize over one hundred years of service that bookmobiles and direct-delivery outreach services have contributed to bringing information, technology, and resources to all readers.[1]

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Books on Wheels

In 1904, the Washington County Free Library in Hagerstown, Maryland, outfitted a wagon with bookshelves to serve as a mobile library unit to reach people who could not normally make it to the library. A few times a week, the book wagon was able to reach rural areas of the county and deliver books to residents.

Pamphlet by the ALA, 1921, RS: 29/7/4

The Washington County Free Library book wagon would meet a tragic end in 1910 when it was struck by a freight train at a railway crossing. This event would suspend the county’s library extension service as there were no funds to purchase a new wagon. However, in 1912, a generous donation of $2,500 by William Kealhofer, Esq. allowed the library to replace the book wagon. Instead of getting another horse drawn wagon, the library purchased a truck that could be fitted with shelves to hold 300 books.[1] The truck allowed the library to extend its reach by being able to add more routes. Continue reading “Books on Wheels”

Have Books, Will Travel

The beginning of the Twentieth century marked the start of expansion for American libraries. A nationwide movement to establish county library systems began in 1898.  This coincided with the spread of branch libraries, which began to appear in large cities in the early 1890s. The growing number of library buildings was due in large part to Andrew Carnegie, who built libraries in 1,412 communities. The first part of the century also saw a broader range of services as librarians reached out to groups that had previously been ignored by the library: children, immigrants, minorities, soldiers, the sick and the handicapped, the working class, and isolated rural community dwellers. Continue reading “Have Books, Will Travel”