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”

Libraries During the Great Depression

The Works Progress Administration (later called the Works Projects Administration, or WPA) was created in May 1935 as part of the new Deal to provide jobs to the unemployed during the Great Depression. In addition to building public roads and supporting community arts projects, the WPA, with help from the ALA Library Extension Board, supported public libraries by sponsoring bookmobiles and providing workers for demonstration projects that extended library services to rural communities. Continue reading “Libraries During the Great Depression”

A Book for Every Man

New York City, New York Book Collection, February, 1919
Record Series 89/1/13

Within a few weeks of America’s entrance into World War I, the American Library Association undertook an enormous campaign to send books and other reading materials to American forces at home and abroad. Continue reading “A Book for Every Man”

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”