Words on Wheels: The Bookmobile

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As a little girl two of my favorite things were playing outside from morning until night and reading.  After sixty years of living, some things have not changed.  I do have a longer list of favorites –grandchildren now included, but the out of doors and reading remain near the top.

My love of reading developed for two reasons.  The first because I lived in a small rural community in Pennsylvania and did not have playmates nearby and the second because we had no television.  In the 2010 census, the population of Pottersdale, my town, was listed as 97 people.  The population of the neighboring community of Karthus, where I attended elementary school, had a population of 811, and Clearfield, “the big city”, a population of 6,215.  The numbers may have been a little larger in the 1950’s because of the coal mining industry, but it was still very rural and I learned to play on my own or with my brothers and sisters.  My family knew a few people that had televisions in their homes but televisions were too expensive for us. Food, clothing and shelter were more important than entertainment. Reading became a favorite pastime.

Even though there were not a lot of books in my home, in the summer I was able to take advantage of that wonderful invention, the bookmobile.   In my community the bookmobile looked like a utility van.  The outside of the van was fitted with pull-down compartments that contained books, and the inside was fitted with shelves for books.  The driver of the vehicle could also double as the librarian.


This picture reminds me of the bookmobile that visited my community, and it shows the outside compartments.  Notice the bare feet of the children. This librarian was also the bookmobile driver and the saddle shoes look serviceable for a long day on the road.  I think I like this lady.  She takes any seat to be eye level with the children and finds no need to sit behind a desk.  Look at all the books on the seat of the bookmobile.  Trying to pack in the perfect books for her customers, she barely has room to drive.


This bookmobile was staffed with the librarian and a driver/librarian and shows the shelves lined with books and children.  It seems a little fancier than most.

I’m not sure how I knew the schedule of the bookmobile or if there was a schedule.  In my mind’s eye I see a little girl carrying a few books in her arms, bare feet, hair with braids flying or with a really bad mom haircut, tearing out the front door with the screen door slamming. Clearing the door, she jumps down three steps and with legs pumping runs to the end of the lane.  Why hurry?  She hurries because of what awaits.  Stories of a trip to the city, a new friend, a mystery, or a fairytale all await when the book is opened and the page turned.

I don’t recall ever missing a stop by the bookmobile.  A trip to the library was almost impossible as it was twenty-eight miles from my home and a forty-six minute drive.  My parents only made the trip to town every two weeks and the children that accompanied them rotated.  I went to town with my parents perhaps six or eight times a year therefore the opportunity to read new books was limited.  The lesson I learned was…don’t miss the bookmobile!

As summer approaches and your children have a little more down time, I hope that you take advantage of the library near you.  Most libraries offer summer reading programs for children.  If your area is still serviced by a bookmobile you are fortunate.  Currently, with the exception of Maine, all states in the US offer traveling branch library service.  Many bookmobiles serve rural communities like the one familiar to me but they also serve economically disadvantaged urban communities.

It doesn’t matter where you get your books, just get them and read!

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Sarah Korhnak

A nature lover busy making her own backyard brilliant!

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