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

The first mobile library 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, such mobile public 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 and were loved by every bookworm.

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in some parts of the world by libraries, schools, activists, and other organizations, they are widely thought to be an outdated service due to high costs, advanced technology, and impracticality.

Now scroll down below and check the vintage photos showcasing a piece from our past!

(h/t: vintageeveryday, messynessychic)

#1

An Opened Bookmobile, 1925

An Opened Bookmobile, 1925

Numismatic Bibliomania Society Report

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Sissy Hankshaw
Community Member
7 years ago DotsCreated by potrace 1.15, written by Peter Selinger 2001-2017

jeeeze.. what a great way to spend your life... driving around with this exactly car, bringing books to the people.

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#2

The First Bookmobile Of The Public Library Of Cincinnati, 1927

The First Bookmobile Of The Public Library Of Cincinnati, 1927

Public Library of Cincinnati & Hamilton County Report

#3

A Mobile Library In Kurdistan, Iran, 1970

A Mobile Library In Kurdistan, Iran, 1970

wikimedia Report

#4

Inside A Bookmobile, 1960s

Inside A Bookmobile, 1960s

Bibliobussen Report

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John Ashley
Community Member
7 years ago DotsCreated by potrace 1.15, written by Peter Selinger 2001-2017

Although my grade school had plenty of books (that you could borrow) in every classroom, our grade school didn't have its own library, so a county library bookmobile came by. Looked a lot like this one. Got exposed to Asimov, Bradbury, Clarke, Heinlein, and many other SF authors whose books they carried. Probably the only thing about school I looked forward to. Sincere thanks and cheers for the people of the Ohio Lucas County Library and their bookmobiles.

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#5

One Of The Library Bookmobiles, C. 1948.

One Of The Library Bookmobiles, C. 1948.

Public Library of Cincinnati & Hamilton County Report

#6

A Bookmobile In Indonesia, Early 20th Century.

A Bookmobile In Indonesia, Early 20th Century.

wikimedia Report

#7

The Bookmobile In Columbia Park, C. 1940

The Bookmobile In Columbia Park, C. 1940

Public Library of Cincinnati & Hamilton County Report

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Fire Bird
Community Member
7 years ago DotsCreated by potrace 1.15, written by Peter Selinger 2001-2017

That book that little girl is carrying, Nicodemus and his little sister by Inez Hogan, that book is worth a pretty penny today. I just saw one for sale for $225.00 on Alibris.com. There were a few Nicodemus books out there by the author.

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#8

Bookmobile

Bookmobile

Multnomah County Library Report

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JessPotato84
Community Member
4 years ago DotsCreated by potrace 1.15, written by Peter Selinger 2001-2017

Ooh ooh, Multnomah County...that's *my* library! Wowee zowee! 📚😍

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#9

Book Caravan In Iowa, C.1927

Book Caravan In Iowa, C.1927

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#10

Multnomah County Library, 1926

Multnomah County Library, 1926

Multnomah County Library Report

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Fire Bird
Community Member
7 years ago DotsCreated by potrace 1.15, written by Peter Selinger 2001-2017

Notice the wheelchair that man is in. Today's chairs have reversed the wheels. At least that wheelchair you can recline in.

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#12

An Impatient Queue For A Dutch Bookmobile

An Impatient Queue For A Dutch Bookmobile

Bibliobussen Report

#13

The Library’s Bookmobile On Compton Road, C.1933

The Library’s Bookmobile On Compton Road, C.1933

Public Library of Cincinnati & Hamilton County Report

#15

Craig Medvigny (left) And David Sutton Enjoying A Book; Eleanor Mann Substitute Traveling Branch Librarian, C. 1920s

Craig Medvigny (left) And David Sutton Enjoying A Book; Eleanor Mann Substitute Traveling Branch Librarian, C. 1920s

Kern County Library Report

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#16

Mrs. Josie Sanders, Richard Sanders, Jerome Sanders And Two Younger Children. C1950s

Mrs. Josie Sanders, Richard Sanders, Jerome Sanders And Two Younger Children. C1950s

Kern County Library Report

#17

A Horse-drawn Cart In Washington In The 1900s. It Was One Of The First American Bookmobiles, Built In 1905, But Was Hit And Destroyed By A Train In 1910

A Horse-drawn Cart In Washington In The 1900s. It Was One Of The First American Bookmobiles, Built In 1905, But Was Hit And Destroyed By A Train In 1910

Crossett Library Report

#19

A Mobile Library In Canterbury

A Mobile Library In Canterbury

Christchurch City Libraries Report

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Pi...
Community Member
7 years ago DotsCreated by potrace 1.15, written by Peter Selinger 2001-2017

And now, we step into the more modern book mobiles of the lot.

#20

A Boston Public Library Bookmobile, 1963

A Boston Public Library Bookmobile, 1963

Boston Public Library Report

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#21

A Bus With A View, 1967

A Bus With A View, 1967

Bibliobussen Report

#22

Utah State Library Bookmobile On The Road Circa 1970

Utah State Library Bookmobile On The Road Circa 1970

Utah State Library Report

#24

Children Gathering At The Bookmobile, C. 1912

Children Gathering At The Bookmobile, C. 1912

Kern County Library Report

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Fire Bird
Community Member
7 years ago DotsCreated by potrace 1.15, written by Peter Selinger 2001-2017

Nice. See the tail light? Just one as they were in the day but that one, I believe, was actually a lamp. Light it and drive at night.

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#25

Children Gathering At The Kern County Free Library Bookmobile At Aztec School, 1947

Children Gathering At The Kern County Free Library Bookmobile At Aztec School, 1947

Kern County Library Report

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Fire Bird
Community Member
7 years ago DotsCreated by potrace 1.15, written by Peter Selinger 2001-2017

that girl's expression on the far left of the picture. Either she is having trouble reading or lunch isnt sitting to well with her.

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#26

A Very Fine Bookmobile Owned By The New Castle County Free Library

A Very Fine Bookmobile Owned By The New Castle County Free Library

Anne Arundel Country Public Library Report

#27

Rockville Fair, Maryland, 1928

Rockville Fair, Maryland, 1928

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Mary Ellen Steele
Community Member
4 years ago DotsCreated by potrace 1.15, written by Peter Selinger 2001-2017

I agree. The contemporary version could read, "County Library We Need to Keep Ours'.

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#28

A Circulating Library In A Streetcar In Munich, Germany

A Circulating Library In A Streetcar In Munich, Germany

Crossett Library Report

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Matt Leger
Community Member
4 years ago DotsCreated by potrace 1.15, written by Peter Selinger 2001-2017

Wow! I've never seen a streetcar library before. Why couldn't New Orleans have done that?

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#29

Bookmobile At Anne Arundel County Fair, 1973

Bookmobile At Anne Arundel County Fair, 1973

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#30

Sanpete County Bookmobile

Sanpete County Bookmobile

Utah State Library Report

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Joni Wagner
Community Member
4 years ago DotsCreated by potrace 1.15, written by Peter Selinger 2001-2017

Why aren't all bookshelves, even in-home ones slanted even slightly? It just makes such good sense!

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#31

Summer Rural Service, 1936

Summer Rural Service, 1936

Multnomah County Library Report

#33

The Book Caravan, One Of The First Traveling Bookshops, 1920.

The Book Caravan, One Of The First Traveling Bookshops, 1920.

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Brenda Blade
Community Member
4 years ago DotsCreated by potrace 1.15, written by Peter Selinger 2001-2017

Love this. Not a lot of people read books anymore but I do. There is nothing that compares to it!

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#34

Books Free For Everybody, Right At The Door – If You Vote "yes"

Books Free For Everybody, Right At The Door – If You Vote "yes"

Hans Krol Report

#36

The Library’s Bookmobile In Sharonville, Circa 1938

The Library’s Bookmobile In Sharonville, Circa 1938

Public Library of Cincinnati & Hamilton County Report

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Marcie Reinertson
Community Member
4 years ago DotsCreated by potrace 1.15, written by Peter Selinger 2001-2017

Love this one too! Look at all the women eager to read and learn!

#37

California State Library Bookmobile, C. 1950

California State Library Bookmobile, C. 1950

Kern County Library Report

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Robin Jaske
Community Member
4 years ago DotsCreated by potrace 1.15, written by Peter Selinger 2001-2017

This photo was taken at the Kern County Fairgrounds, possibly during the fair!

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#39

Bookmobile, Southgate District, C. 1920s

Bookmobile, Southgate District, C. 1920s

Kern County Library Report

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Kim Carnahan
Community Member
7 years ago DotsCreated by potrace 1.15, written by Peter Selinger 2001-2017

This is definitely not in the 1920s. The girl on the steps is wearing a 1940s style head wrap and cut off denim shorts, which would NEVER have been worn in the 20s, nor did little boys go shirtless or wear jeans. The styles indicate the 1940s.

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#40

Bookmobile In Madrid Spain

Bookmobile In Madrid Spain

Crossett Library Report

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#42

A Czech Book Truck

A Czech Book Truck

KMP Report

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#43

Onboard The Connecticut State Library’s Bookmobile With Margaret Sullivan And Marcella Finan, 1967

Onboard The Connecticut State Library’s Bookmobile With Margaret Sullivan And Marcella Finan, 1967

Bristol Public Library Report

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#44

Chris Junapa Standing In The Bookmobile, 1980

Chris Junapa Standing In The Bookmobile, 1980

Kern County Library Report

#46

Patrons Visit The Bookmobile In 1962. Mrs James B. Wilson, Librarian, Performs Readers' Advisory Service At Far Right

Patrons Visit The Bookmobile In 1962. Mrs James B. Wilson, Librarian, Performs Readers' Advisory Service At Far Right

Anne Arundel Country Public Library Report

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#47

Carolyn Herntz Assists Patrons Visiting The Bookmobile, 1958

Carolyn Herntz Assists Patrons Visiting The Bookmobile, 1958

Anne Arundel Country Public Library Report

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JessPotato84
Community Member
4 years ago DotsCreated by potrace 1.15, written by Peter Selinger 2001-2017

Are those magnets announcing the next arrival? Glob, these are all so incredible! 😮😍

#48

Patrons Visiting The Bookmobile

Patrons Visiting The Bookmobile

Anne Arundel Country Public Library Report

#49

A Photo Of The Bookmobile From Washington County (md) Free Library

A Photo Of The Bookmobile From Washington County (md) Free Library

Anne Arundel Country Public Library Report

#50

Bookmobile At Headquarters, 1977

Bookmobile At Headquarters, 1977

Kern County Library Report

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#51

Presentation Of The New Bookmobile At The Paris Colonial Exposition Held In Paris France, 1931

Presentation Of The New Bookmobile At The Paris Colonial Exposition Held In Paris France, 1931

Crossett Library Report

#52

Bookmobile, About 1925

Bookmobile, About 1925

Multnomah County Library Report

#53

Bookmobile Interior, May 1927

Bookmobile Interior, May 1927

Multnomah County Library Report

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Brent Sarazin
Community Member
4 years ago DotsCreated by potrace 1.15, written by Peter Selinger 2001-2017

Wow. The leather straps. That must have smelt really nice when the Sun would shine on it.

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#55

Summer Book Wagon, 1928

Summer Book Wagon, 1928

Multnomah County Library Report

#58

A Tram In Berlin With 2400 Books In Berlin, 1952

A Tram In Berlin With 2400 Books In Berlin, 1952

Junge, Peter Heinz Report

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Michael Kenney
Community Member
4 years ago DotsCreated by potrace 1.15, written by Peter Selinger 2001-2017

Can't help but recall that only a few years earlier some people were burning books in Germany. Wonderful how enlightenment always returns. But at great cost.

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#59

Framingham Public Library, 1956

Framingham Public Library, 1956

Framingham Public Library Local History Report

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#60

Utah State Library Bookmobile On The Road, 1970

Utah State Library Bookmobile On The Road, 1970

Utah State Library Report

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#61

The Bookmobile Of Providence Public Library, 1967

The Bookmobile Of Providence Public Library, 1967

Providence Public Library Report

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#62

Paul Buttars, Former Manager Of The Utah State Library Bookmobile Program, In One Of The “older” Bookmobiles. Taken In Chesterfield, Ut, C.1975

Paul Buttars, Former Manager Of The Utah State Library Bookmobile Program, In One Of The “older” Bookmobiles. Taken In Chesterfield, Ut, C.1975

Utah State Library Report

#63

The Bicentennial Bookmobile In Utah, 1976

The Bicentennial Bookmobile In Utah, 1976

Utah State Library Report

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#64

Patrons Visiting The Bookmobile

Patrons Visiting The Bookmobile

Anne Arundel Country Public Library Report

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#66

Getting Ready, 1976

Getting Ready, 1976

Kern County Library Report

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#67

Patrons Visiting The Bookmobile In 1962, Assisted By Mrs. James B. Wilson And Mrs. William H. Gary

Patrons Visiting The Bookmobile In 1962, Assisted By Mrs. James B. Wilson And Mrs. William H. Gary

Anne Arundel Country Public Library Report

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Kim Carnahan
Community Member
7 years ago DotsCreated by potrace 1.15, written by Peter Selinger 2001-2017

Notice how the women were not identified by their own first names, but by their husbands'.

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#68

Patrons Visit The Bookmobile

Patrons Visit The Bookmobile

Anne Arundel Country Public Library Report

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Toni Nase
Community Member
4 years ago DotsCreated by potrace 1.15, written by Peter Selinger 2001-2017

Oh lord, I had that dress, brown print with white collar and cuffs

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#69

Bookmobile, C. 1950

Bookmobile, C. 1950

Kern County Library Report

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Michael Bratton
Community Member
4 years ago DotsCreated by potrace 1.15, written by Peter Selinger 2001-2017

The Postman would put a notice in the mailbox when the bookmobile would be coming down our street. I had a bike just like that.

#70

Interior Of A Circulating Library In A Streetcar In Munich, Germany

Interior Of A Circulating Library In A Streetcar In Munich, Germany

Crossett Library Report

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#71

Patrons Visiting The Bookmobile

Patrons Visiting The Bookmobile

Anne Arundel Country Public Library Report

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#72

Bookmobile

Bookmobile

Multnomah County Library Report

#73

Patrons In Bookmobile Line

Patrons In Bookmobile Line

Multnomah County Library Report

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