Saturday, 1 January 2011

Softback, Hard Shoulder - The Mobile Library

What will the coming year bring for libraries? I've always had a tingly feel about mobile libraries so I'm quite prepared, in these austere times, if we can't afford buildings any more, to take to a life on the open road - a sort of Loan Ranger.

The mobile library, or Bookmobile, has been around for a long time and there were still 656 in Britain at last count.

Pictured is America's first mobile library in 1905 in the hands of one 'Mr. Thomas the janitor both holding the reins and dispensing the books.

No better method has ever been devised for reaching the dweller in the country. The book goes to the man, not waiting for the man to come to the book. Psychologically too the wagon is the thing. As well try to resist the pack of a peddler from the Orient as the shelf full of books when the doors of the wagon are opened by Miss Chrissinger at one’s gateway.'

The UK's first was in Warrington, 1859 (pictured).

But all of this is rather tame considering how books get around in other countries. Why stop at a van after all?

There's the Epos library ship plying the coast of Norway, Ethiopia's Donkey Mobile Library, Kenya's Camel Bookmobile and... with simply the best name for this kind - or any kind - of enterprise, Colombia's Biblioburro

Related posts:

To buy:

The Mobile Library - The Case of the Missing Books - By Ian Sansom

Main picture source: Moormann


  1. I am amazed that my village still has a library of its very own. I admit I don't use it as much as I might (and getting a kindle hasn't helped) - but I would if the staff looked like my mental image of a librarian (see the picture in your post 2 down) - or you.

    But then my year has already started with me being accused of facetiousness, so you will probably ignore that.

  2. I guess there are issues. And, like all library issues, they should be stamped out. Boom boom!

  3. How I wish a donkey would bring books to my door - I suppose I could always ask Cad?

  4. "As well try to resist the pack of a peddler from the Orient as the shelf full of books when the doors of the wagon are opened by Miss Chrissinger at one’s gateway.'" As well try to unpack the syntax of this sentence--did we really used to write like that?--as wonder what the appeal might be of Miss Chrissinger. Traveling books, a great way to start the austeriteens. (See, I DID read that tweet!)

  5. The Bookmobile remains one of my favourite memories of elementary school. There was something so cool about hopping on board a big yellow bus filled with books - and without that, none of us would have had easy access to a library as our school was not equipped with one until much later.

    Very neat to see the ways that books are delivered in other countires - I'm with Fran in wishing for my own book donkey.

  6. Fascinating post. I'd never stoppped to think about other countries before. Can I have the chair?

  7. Dave - so, basically, the continued existence of a vital community facility rests on whether they have totty to stamp your frontispiece... for shame! Oh and btw, I have a special 'facetiousness post' lined up just for you...

    Martin - I've got to give you Dewey credit for that one!

    Rainy - I liked that line too! Maybe we should send Miss Chrissinger to Dave in Norfolk?

    Everyone else - so that's three donkeys and one chair? You want FRIES with that?

    Of course, the animal would specialise in books by the great Spanish author, Cervantes... author of Donkey Oaty.

    Deborah - I'd quite like a big yellow bus... at least you wouldn't have to feed it oats!

  8. 'totty to stamp your frontispiece' sounds so much like a euphemism that I'm going to adopt it as such.

  9. I thought you'd enjoy that one, Dave! ;-)