History of the Bookmobile

First American Bookmobile
First American Bookmobile (1905)

Have you ever wondered where the Bookmobile originated? Bookmobiles have dated back as early as the late 1850s. It was a horse-drawn collection of books in the town of Cumbria, England that started its rounds to the community.

In 1905, Mary Lemist Titcomb, a librarian in Maryland, for whom the first bookmobile in the United States is attributed to, said, “Would not a Library Wagon, the outward and visible signs of the service for which the Library stood, do much more in cementing friendship?” We have definitely benefited from the vision that several people have had for taking books out to the communities around them.

Bookmobiles are also made up of different varieties. In earlier times, a mule-drawn wagon would carry wooden boxes of books to its patrons. In many foreign countries today camels, elephants, and donkeys transport books to their respective villages. An excellent book in our collection for children, Biblioburro: A True Story from Columbia, by Jeanette Winter, portrays the story about Luis, who buys two donkeys and takes books to children in faraway villages.

You may wonder how many bookmobiles are in existence today. All states today have bookmobiles, with the exception of Maine. Kentucky leads the way with 98 bookmobiles; New York State has 11 bookmobiles.

Yes, the service that the bookmobile provides now not only helps to “cement” friendships, but also brings books, audiobooks, DVDs, and periodicals to those who would not normally be able to come to the library. Visits to schools, day care centers, and assisted-living apartments, etc., make up a large part of our services. A variety of programming is available throughout the year along with participation in several community events.

Finally, for more information on the history of bookmobiles please visit the following websites:

Sue Schoeffler