History of Bookmobiles

The timeline will trace the history of bookmobiles in the United States from the first "traveling collections" of 1893 to the current "bookmobiles, mobile libraries and cybermobiles" they have developed into during the 21st Century.

1893-01-01 00:00:00

Traveling Collections

The first implementation of taking collections of books to people emerged in 1893 and in 1899 there were 2,500 traveling collections. Melvil Dewey was the leader of this service idea. (Hawk, 2008. p. 57)

1900-01-01 01:01:44

Mail Delivery

Libraries began sending books by mail to areas that were not reached by traveling collections. (Hawk, 2008)

1903-01-01 01:01:44

Schoolhouse Wagons

Wisconsin led the way by using wagons to make book deliveries to schoolhouses. (Hawk)

1904-01-01 01:01:44

Library Wagon

Hagerstown, Maryland requested a library wagon to deliver books to under-served farming areas. Mary Lemist Titcomb was the driving force behind these rural library services. (Hawk, 2008)

1905-12-30 22:59:08

First Bookmobile

The Washington County Free Library was the first to specifically design a wagon to be used as a bookmobile. Headed by Mary L. Titcomb, the actual horse drawn wagon was driven by janitor, Joshua Thomas. (Hawk, 2008)

1912-12-30 22:59:08

Motorized Bookmobiles

The first motorized bookmobiles were introduced, expanding services to rural areas, schools and residential facilities. (POV)

1918-12-30 22:59:08


Minnesota introduced a "luxurious" bookbus. (Hawk, 2008)

1920-12-30 22:59:08

Book Truck

Book truck programs began when the American Library Association identified that "83% of rural residents in the United States and Canada did not have access to libraries" (Hawk).

1929-12-30 22:59:08


On January 3, 1929 the term "bookmobile" was first used (Hawk, 2008).

1935-12-30 22:59:08

Pack Horse Librarians

During the Great Depression rural library services were continued by women on pack horses. They traveled through the hills of Kentucky as part of the Works Progress Administration program (Hawk).

1937-12-30 22:59:08

United States

60 book truck operated throughout the United States to meet the unique needs of communities (Hawk).

1938-12-30 22:59:08


Vehicles were specifically designed to deliver books (Hawk).

1944-12-30 22:59:08

Across the U.S.

300 bookmobiles were in use in 41 states (Hawk, 2008).

1950-12-30 22:59:08


600 bookmobiles in operation (Hawk, 2008).

1956-12-30 22:59:08

More Growth

Over 900 bookmobiles in operation (Hawk, 2008).

1970-12-30 22:59:08

And more

2,000 bookmobiles operating throughout the United States (Hawk, 2008).

1980-12-30 22:59:08

Fuel Costs

Bookmobile services leveled out, and some were eliminated, due to rising fuel costs in the 1970s and 80s (Hawk, 2008).

1990-09-13 02:00:24


1,102 bookmobiles (Association, 2012).

1995-05-24 23:41:22


978 bookmobiles (Association, 2012).

2001-05-24 23:41:22

And Now

879 bookmobiles (Association, 2012).

2004-12-29 06:57:56


American Documentary, I. (1995-2012). Retrieved May 2012, from POV Documentaries with a Point of View: http://www.pbs.org/pov/biblioburro/bookmobile.php Association, A. L. (2012). Bookmobiles in the U.S. Retrieved May 2012, from ALA: https://www.ala.org/ala/research/librarystats/public/bookmobiles/bookmobilesu.cfm Giant Systems, L. (n.d.). Retrieved from The Bookmobile: https://files.nyu.edu/mg128/public/History.htm Hawk, M. (2008). Bookmobile Services in Rural America: Past, Present, and Future. Bookmobile Outreach Serv, 11(2), 57-78.

History of Bookmobiles

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