Before Amazon, We Had Bookmobiles: 20 Rare Photos Of Libraries-On-Wheels

Long before Amazon, Audible, and other digital book distributors, bookmobiles were bringing literature to peoples’ doorsteps. Their mission was to provide the written word to remote villages and city suburbs that had no libraries. We invite you to remember these almost forgotten four-wheelers of the past.

The first bookmobile is believed to have appeared in Warrington, England in the late 1850s. It was a horse-drawn cart, and lent about 12,000 books during its first year of service. Later, mobile libraries were installed inside vehicles and reached the height of their popularity in the mid-20th century when they had become a part of Americal life.

Although bookmobiles are still operated in some parts of the world by libraries, schools, activists, and other organizations, they are widely thought to be an outdated service due to high costs, advanced technology and impracticality.

#1 An Opened Bookmobile, 1925

#2 The First Bookmobile Of The Public Library Of Cincinnati, 1927

#3 A Mobile Library In Kurdistan, Iran, 1970

#4 Inside A Bookmobile, 1960s

#5 One Of The Library Bookmobiles, C. 1948.

#6 A Bookmobile In Indonesia, Early 20th Century.

#7 The Bookmobile In Columbia Park, C. 1940

#8 Bookmobile

#9 Book Caravan In Iowa, C.1927

#10 Multnomah County Library, 1926


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  1. I’ve always love books, reading and learning from them. I’ve travelled by reading books, I enjoy the mystery, the adventure and experiences of heroes and heroines by reading. I’ve loved reading since at 3rd grade I was given a book as prize. Now at age 67, I still love to read. Every year my husband and I go to a remote school in Apayao, Philippines to distribute school supplies to school children. We also bring any donations of used clothes, used shoes and books donated by friends and family. The library or learning center in the school does not have much except for the couple of boxes I’ve been bringing for the last four years. It would be great to make it a real reading center. I’m saving to buy from a used book store in the city, I’m not stopping till I can fill the shelves. Hehehe, I’ll have to build some shelves, the books are stacked on a couple of shelves and a table. I really want these children to love books and learning like I did when I was in grade school.

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