What Ever Became of…Bookmobiles?


A month or so ago, an excellent suggestion for something disappearing in our modern world was offered up by OA5599, and because I am running out of ideas I forgot about it until this week it is such an excellent suggestion, let’s consider it.  Many of you may still remember those heady elementary school days, when you would be given a crinkly colored newsprint pamphlet full of all sort of new and wonderful books.  Well, maybe they weren’t all wonderful, some were simply youth novelized versions of current movies, but that booklet was the harbinger of the BookMobile!  Sometimes it was an actual bus or trailer that opened up to be a miniature bookstore, sometime it was just a rolling set of shelves that were wheeled into the cafeteria, crisp shiny new paperbacks, all moderately priced.

Mr. OA5599’s inspiration for this quest was a retired BookMobile that was up for sale–think of the possibilities!–and I’ll let you read the question in his words.  “Between e-books, print-on-demand, and overnight UPS delivery to tangible printed material, is there really a need for your tax dollars to be going towards truck diesel and your librarian’s CDL?”

  • $kaycog



  • Dean Bigglesworth

    There's still a few library buses driving around in the city here. As far as I know even the one I used to visit at school some twenty years ago is still driving around.

  • chrystlubitshi

    the library system my wife works for still has an active book mobile system as well as something like 25 brick and mortar branches that have a floating collection (can check out a book at one branch/return it at any other).

  • Slow_Joe_Crow

    In the Portland OR area, apparently the Washington County and Multnomah County library systems use their online catalogs and books by mail instead of bookmobiles these days. Even Powell's Books appear to have retired their truck in favor of their web site.

  • Not sure if you are referring to a bookmobile as a library on wheels or a book store on wheels. We had the book store thing when I was in school, we called it a book fair. They still do those as far as I know. Don't think I have seen the mobile library thing ever in my area, at least not in the last 30 years.

    I still miss the MASSIVE Goodwill book sale they used to do in Atlanta. They brought in a dozen or two tractor trailers full of used books and took over the whole bottom floor of a local mall (the center area and any unused stores) for a week or two. I would usually leave with several large shopping bags full of books. Pickup up lots of great car books there and just oddball stuff in general (a how to speak Russian for English speakers, published in the USSR in 1945 for one.)

    • OA5599

      I was referring to the library on wheels. They used to come to our elementary school every other week, even though the school had a library, and the public library had a branch within 5 miles of the school.

      The only times I remember using a bookmobile were when I was in elementary school, but I imagine they had a set route with stops at other places, too.

      Book fairs will continue to endure as long as Scholastic sells printed matter.

  • coupeZ600

    They still use them a lot out on The Rez, where they only recently got fairly adequate cell phone service. Because of the huge distances and lack of towers, they even got to use analog cell phones long after the rest of the U.S. was forced to change over to digital.

  • CopterBob

    I had no idea until I just checked, but we still have active bookmobile routes here. The surprise is that their stops now consist of only independent and assisted living facilities. Perhaps youth have no need for books now since their attention span maxes out at 140 characters?