Check Out These 15 Amazing Vintage Bookmobile Pics

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Nowadays, with the internet, ebooks and online hardcopy book vendors at our fingertips, it's easy to take for granted just how privileged our access to information is. We also, unfortunately, do not place nearly the same value on literacy as we once did. During the first half of the 20th Century, and even well past it, the "bookmobile" was employed as a means to bring books to areas where library access was limited. They functioned like small, mobile libraries, lending out and collecting books to grateful patrons.

The bookmobile was first wheeled out in Warrington, England sometime in the 1850's. It was not, in fact, a "mobile" at all. It was a horse-drawn cart that carried books. It's estimated that about 12,000 books were lent out of the cart during its first year of operation. With horses out of the picture, the books moved into cozier digs inside of large automobiles.

Many public libraries had their own bookmobile, or bookmobiles. They were designed so that people could either access the book shelves from outside the vehicle, or they were large enough to accommodate visitors inside. Modern iterations of the bookmobile follow the latter pattern. RV's and old school buses are sometimes repurposed to serve as bookmobiles. In the United States, they are mostly used to bring books to communities whose mobility prevents them from visiting libraries.

Bookmobiles are still being used, but their heyday is definitely in the past. With internet access becoming more and more widespread, the bookmobile has been rendered redundant. But during the height of their popularity, they were a pillar of life, both in America and abroad. These fifteen photos will give you a glimpse into their wonderful history.


1. An Indonesian Bookmobile, Early 20th Century

Wikimedia Wikimedia


2. Greensboro, North Carolina, 1936

Bookmobile - 10 Crossett Library


3. An Open Bookmobile, 1925

Bookmobile - 1 Numismatic Bibliomania Society


4. Columbia Park Bookmobile, Circa 1940

Bookmobile - 6 The Public Library of Cincinnati & Hamilton County


5. Dutch, Date Unknown

Bookmobile - 11 Bibliobussen


6. The Public Library of Cincinnati's First Bookmobile, 1927

Bookmobile - 2 Public Library of Cincinnati & Hamilton County


7. Formal Attire, Date of Photograph Unknown

Bookmobile - 7 Multnomah County Library


8. Book Staff, Circa 1930

Public Library of Cincinnati & Hamilton County Public Library of Cincinnati & Hamilton County


9. A Bookmobile in Kurdistan, 1970

Bookmobile - 3 Wikimedia


10. Iowa Book Caravan, 1927

Bookmobile - 8


11. Parked on Compton Road, 1933

Bookmobile - 13 Public Library of Cincinnati & Hamilton County


12. Interior View, 1960's

Bookmobile - 4 Bibliobussen


13. Multnomah Public Library, 1926

Bookmobile - 9 Multnomah County Library


14. Craig Medvigny (Left) and David Sutton (Right) With Eleanor Mann, Substitute Traveling Branch Librarian, 1920's

Bookmobile - 15 Kern County Library


15. A Public Library Book Van, 1948

Bookmobile - 5 Public Library of Cincinnati & Hamilton County

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Matt lives in Southern California. He is interested in politics, history, literature and the natural world.