Thursday, November 01, 2012

Texas Bookmobiles - New and Old

The First Bookmobile in Texas (1930, Jefferson County)
Bookmobiles have a long and proud history in this country, but I can only recall ever seeing one of them on a regular basis.  That was in the early 1980s when the Harris County Library sent a bookmobile to our neighborhood on a regular, monthly schedule - which, now that I think about it, is a little strange because we were only six or seven miles from a library branch.  The bookmobile seemed to appeal mostly to children, so it was probably an excellent way to introduce kids to regular public library visits and to get them excited about reading.

As it turns out, the first bookmobile in the entire state of Texas appeared in Jefferson County (my home county, although, frankly, I was happy to see it in my rearview mirror) way back in 1930.  The rig was paid for by W.C. Tyrrell, a Beaumont philanthropist and was associated with the city's Tyrrell Public Library.  The bookmobile was ingeniously designed with shelves on both the inside and the outside and was capable of carrying a rather surprising total of 14,000 books. 

Bookmobiles are almost a thing of the past in Texas and across the U.S. but two librarians in Houston plan to add one to the Texas fleet (of only eight) in early 2013.  They are calling it The Billy Pilgrim Traveling Library and will be driving it back from its Gallipolis, Ohio, pick-up point later this month.  On their way home, they plan stops in Louisville, Nashville, Memphis, and Little Rock where they hope to gather donations to help them add to their book collection - making the trip a literal "book drive."

Take a look at their website for all the details about the big plans for the bookmobile and, if you see them on the road this month as they make their way back to Houston, consider stopping by and donating to a great cause.  I can't wait to see them in action.


  1. it thought it would be book mobiles as in the hanging kind! but this is equally neat!

  2. What a great design this vintage bookmobile is - love the photo!

  3. Whole different kind of book"mobile," aloi s. Now you have me curious about the other kind.

  4. Debbie, I've been trying to figure out how much weight that 1930 bookmobile was carrying...14,000 books have to weigh two or three tons, I imagine.

  5. What a fabulous photo! Where did you find it? Do you know if it is in the public domain? Thanks!