There is no sadder phrase in the English language than
Mobile libraries put books in the hands of those that don’t have access to a local library. That’s something we can easily take for granted as we access books through our Kindles, iPhones and everything in between. These libraries are on board a vehicle — a van, bicycle and even a boat — with bookshelves full of titles that residents are free to peruse and take home.
One of the earliest mobile libraries was in 1857 and pulled by horse carriage in England. It circulated around eight villages. The next year, another horse-drawn library popped up in England, The Warrington Perambulating Library.
These inventive libraries even have their own national day. The American Library Association sponsors an annual National Bookmobile Day and celebrates bookmobiles and their dedication to serving their communities.
Here are nine mobile libraries from around the world that bring literature to people every day.
1. Bus stop library in Bogota, Colombia
This library is a bit more stationary than a mobile library, but it helps those waiting for public transportation. There are around 47 bus stop libraries around Bogota, Colombia and more in other cities. They are staffed by volunteers and their mission is simple — to spread and promote literacy in the country. You can check books out and the staff members are available to answer questions and even help children with their homework.
2. Two-wheel library in Portland
This bike-powered library‘s mission is to provide books to homeless folks in Portland. Laura Moulton, the artist behind Street Books, moves around the city to designated spots. Then she checks out books to people using an old-school card catalog system, giving them a week to read them. They have now grown to a team of seven people since 2011.
3. Tell a Story in Portugal
This cute bright blue van drives around Lisbon, Portugal and it keeps its shelves stocked with classic Portuguese books translated to English, French, Italian, German and Spanish. The “Tell a Story” project is a way to promote local culture and give more access to local literature by translating important titles.
4. Il Ilbibliomotocarro in Italy
After 42 years of teaching, Antonio La Cava bought a used truck and modified it to house 700 books. He travels the Italian countryside and like an ice cream truck, he has his own distinctive sound — the organ. His 8-stop journey takes more than 300 miles and he does it all for free.
5. Beep Beep Books in Cebu, Philippines
Beep Beep Books is a mobile library project to provide books to the children in disaster-hit areas. The bright multicolored refurbished jeepney collects new and used books and puts together “starter sets” of 100 children’s books to help school libraries restart.