Transport Your Mind: Books About Bookmobiles and Mobile Libraries

By NYPL Staff
July 6, 2021

Bookmobile, Bronx, 1950s. NYPL Digital Collections, Image ID: ps_mss_cd7_95

Since the first known bookmobile—a horse-drawn wagon—hit the road in 1904, intrepid librarians and booksellers across the world have traversed great distances by foot, by wheel, and by four-legged creature to bring reading materials to remote and underserved regions. 
The New York Public Library has employed various "book vans," "bookwagons," and "traveling libraries" throughout its history to bring books and information directly to communities. The most recent iteration of Bookmobile services relaunched in the Bronx in 2019 bringing Library services, including books and digital resources, to communities whose neighborhood libraries are closed for an extended period due to capital projects and renovations. Currently, patrons can find Bookmobile service operating in the Bronx, with service in Manhattan and Staten Island coming soon.

Celebrate the return of Bookmobile service with these books about the creative ways libraries and bookstores bring books and resources to their communities. Stay up-to-date with The New York Public Library's Bookmobile services by following us on Twitter, and by visiting us online

Adult Titles

Parnassus on Wheels by Christopher Morley

"When you sell a man a book," says Roger Mifflin, the sprite-like book peddler at the center of this classic novella, "you don't sell him just twelve ounces of paper and ink and glue, you sell him a whole new life." In this beguiling but little-known prequel to Christopher Morley's beloved Haunted Bookshop, the "whole new life" that the traveling bookman delivers to Helen McGill, the narrator of Parnassus on Wheels, provides the romantic comedy that drives this charming love letter to a life in books.

The Uncommon Reader by Alan Bennett 

Obliged to borrow a book when her corgis stray into a mobile library, the Queen discovers a passion for reading, setting the palace upon its head and causing the royal head of Great Britain to question her role in the monarchy.

 

 

 

 

Better Off Read by Nora Page

Bookmobile-driving, septuagenarian librarian Cleo Watkins fights an upstart new mayor to prevent the closure of the town's storm-damaged library, an effort that is complicated by an eccentric benefactor's untimely murder and clues that point to Cleo's best friend.

The Bookshop on the Cornerby Jenny Colgan

A "literary matchmaker" who takes joy in pairing readers with perfect books moves from the city to a sleepy village where she becomes a bookmobile driver and rediscovers her senses of adventure and home while searching for a happy ending of her own. 

The Book Woman of Troublesome Creekby Kim Michele Richardson

A last-of-her-kind outcast and member of the Pack Horse Library Project braves the hardships of Kentucky's Great Depression and hostile community discrimination to bring the near-magical perspectives of books to her neighbors. A last-of-her-kind outcast and member of the Pack Horse Library Project braves the hardships of Kentucky's Great Depression and hostile community discrimination to bring the near-magical perspectives of books to her neighbors.

Middle Grade & YA Titles

Angel of Greenwood by Randi Pink

Isaiah Wilson is, on the surface, a town troublemaker, but is hiding that he is an avid reader and secret poet. Angel Hill is a loner, mostly disregarded by her peers as a goody-goody. Her father is dying, and her family’s financial situation is in turmoil.  Though they’ve attended the same schools, Isaiah never noticed Angel as anything but a dorky, Bible toting church girl. Then their English teacher offers them a job on her mobile library, a three-wheel, two-seater bike. But life changes on May 31, 1921, when a vicious white mob storms the Black community of Greenwood, leaving the town destroyed and thousands of residents displaced. Only then, Isaiah, Angel, and their peers realize who their real enemies are.
 

Wish on All the Stars by Lisa Schroeder

A sequel to See You on a Starry Night finds official new Starry Beach Club member Juliet working with her friends to make wishes come true, a vocation that is challenged by the possible closing of the local bookmobile.

Children’s Titles

Ready to Fly: How Sylvia Townsend Became the First Bookmobile Ballerina story told by Lea Lyon and A. LaFaye; illustrated by Jessica Gibson

A picture book inspired by the early life of African American dancer Sylvia Townsend describes the limited opportunities that compelled her to use books from her hometown’s bookmobile to teach herself classical ballet.

 

Miss Dorothy and Her Bookmobile by Gloria Houston; illustrated by Susan Condie Lamb

Dorothy has always wanted to work in a library like the red brick one of her girlhood, but after moving to rural North Carolina she discovers that the type of library is less important than the books and the people who read them.

Library on Wheels : Mary Lemist Titcomb and America's First Bookmobile by Sharlee Mullins Glenn

As librarian at the Washington County Free Library in Maryland, Mary Lemist Titcomb was concerned that the library was not reaching all the people it could. She was determined that everyone should have access to the library—not just adults and those who lived in town. Realizing its limitations and inability to reach the county's 25,000 rural residents, including farmers and their families, Titcomb set about to change the library system forever with the introduction of book-deposit stations throughout the country, a children's room in the library, and her most revolutionary idea of all—a horse-drawn Book Wagon.

The Library Bus by Bahram Rahman; illustrated by Gabrielle Grimard

It is still dark in Kabul, Afghanistan when the library bus rumbles out of the city. There are no bus seats—instead there are chairs and tables and shelves of books. And there are no passengers—instead there is Pari, who is nervously starting her first day as Mama’s library helper. Pari stands tall to hand out notebooks and pencils at the villages and the refugee camp, but she feels intimidated. The girls they visit are learning to write English from Mama. Pari can’t even read or write in Farsi yet. But next year she will go to school and learn all there is to know. And she is so lucky. Not long ago, Mama tells her, girls were not allowed to read at all.

Waiting for the Biblioburro by Monica Brown; illustrations by John Parra

Ana loves stories. She often makes them up to help her little brother fall asleep. But in her small village there are only a few books and she has read them all. One morning, Ana wakes up to the clip-clop of hooves, and there before her, is the most wonderful sight: a traveling library resting on the backs of two burros carrying all the books a little girl could dream of, with enough stories to encourage her to create one of her own. Inspired by the heroic efforts of real-life librarian Luis Soriano.

My Librarian Is a Camel : How Books Are Brought to Children Around the World by Margriet Ruurs

An intriguing photo essay shows the many unconventional ways that librarians deliver books to children who live in remote areas, including by boat, bus, train, elephant, donkey, and even wheelbarrow.

Library Lil by Suzanne Williams; pictures by Steven Kellogg

A formidable bookmobile librarian makes readers not only out of the once resistant residents of her small town, but out of a tough-talking, television-watching motorcycle gang as well.

Have trouble reading standard print? Many of these titles are available in formats for patrons with print disabilities.

Summaries provided via NYPL’s catalog, which draws from multiple sources. Click through to each book’s title for more.