Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Bookmobiles in Los Angeles

Today is National Bookmobile Day, which is part of National Library Week.

I wondered about the history of bookmobiles in Los Angeles. A trip through history via the Los Angeles Times did not disappoint. The Los Angeles Public Library unveiled the first bookmobile that catered exclusively to children at the Los Angeles Children's Show at the Shrine Auditiorium in September 1949. Little Toot, as the bookmobile was affectionately known (the LAPL Photo Collection has a photo here), could carry 2500 books and initially made stops to 20 elementary schools in congested areas of Los Angeles.

Little Toot's big brothers were busy as well. By 1953, three of LAPL's four bookmobiles serviced the San Fernando Valley, an area growing so fast in the post-war years that library branches couldn't be built fast enough. LAPL's 'Traveling Branch' bookmobile service made 28 stops a week and, by 1957, were circulating almost 500,000 volumes a year. A 1961 article mentions that bookmobile librarians don't bat an eye when a patron rides up on horseback in a rural part of the Valley, but do object to patrons leaving books on the street before the bookmobile's arrival.

In 1959, according to the Los Angeles Times, the Los Angeles County Library had six bookmobiles in addition to it's services in 88 communities. By 1972 (and with a budget of $13 million for the year), the County Library had 94 community libraries, serviced 21 libraries in jails and hospitals, and operated nine bookmobiles!

The Los Angeles Public Library has a great collection of their bookmobile photos, which you can find here. This bookmobile photo from LAPL's 1972 centennial celebration is my favorite, check out the Peanuts-esque booth that reads 'Mind-Bending' with the 5 cents sign crossed out.

You should also check out Library History Buff's bookmobile homage which contains links to Pinterest and Flickr.

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