Thus begins the December 1947 issue of the Library News Bulletin (LNB). The LNB was a publication of the Washington State Library from 1932 – 1975, and one that we have recently decided to digitize. It contains the early history of the libraries of Washington State. They have been silently lurking on a shelf near my desk and have only today made themselves known to me. What a treasure trove they are for those of you interested in Library history. In the spirit of Steve Willis I pulled the aforementioned issue off the shelf and discovered an entire “Bulletin” dedicated to Bookmobiles. In 1947 bookmobiles were apparently the hot ticket in Washington. These staunch librarians ventured out all over the state, bringing books to their most remote patrons. Here are a series of quotes from the issue, including stories that they reported from their rounds.
“’I have an emergency request,’ Declared a ten year old bookmobile patron. “My penguin is sick. Have you a book telling what to do for a sick penguin?” – Snohomish County Library.
When the cranberry growers on the Burrows Road were too busy to come to the bookmobile in the midst of harvest this fall, driver Charles Jackson and librarian Mary Botten walked out on the bogs and helped with the harvesting.” – Grays Harbor County Library
“’My wife wants this book renewed.’ “I’m sorry sir but I have another reservation for that book. I shall have to keep it for the next reader.’ “Good enough for her, serves her right. I told her she should be reading her books instead of moving the furniture around the house to some new place where nobody can find anything.’” – Snohomish County Library
“At one stop, a woman and her two children always arrive in the family ‘jeep.’ She was absent one day, and the bookmobile had traveled several miles when the driver heard a queer sound and looked back to discover that we were being chased by a jeep!” – Whatcom County Library.
“Along a lonely country road a lady, scarcely middle-aged, flagged the bookmobile. ‘Could I have library books? I can’t get to any of the scheduled stops and I am so ill that there is nothing left for me to do but read.’ Dropsy, from which she is suffering has already developed to such an extent that boarding the bookmobile is physical impossibility. Our schedule was already crowded. An added stop threw off the whole day’s program. So what? There were always the few minutes assigned to lunch. We found a way.” – Snohomish County Library
“The traveling library again reaches the flats and there stands ‘Grandpap,” one-eyed and 90 years old, with his book-filled suitcase ready for exchange, A woman, nearly out of breath, hurries into the library gasping, ‘I was in Vancouver and I almost didn’t get back in time to meet you here and I just don’t know what I’d do if I didn’t have anything to read.” – Clark County Library
“One of our patrons had trouble remembering when he should go to the bookmobile and always arrived just as we were pulling away from the stop. One day he arrived exactly on time and someone asked him how it happened. ‘Oh,’ he replied, ‘my wife sets the alarm for me now, so I’ll know when to leave the house.’” – Whatcom county Library
“At one of our stops the patrons rate only second in our affections. A little golden cocker spaniel is always there to greet us. He barks his welcome and wags his tail impatiently until the door is opened, and in he jumps to receive our words of greeting. After a quick inspection to be sure everything is ship-shape and the librarian and driver on deck, he skips out, quite satisfied that he has exercised true community spirit by recognizing and appreciating the new bookmobile and its staff.” – Snohomish County Library.
Now a days we reach our patrons on bicycles, at festivals, by email, through electronic chat, and on and on. These bookmobile stories are just an early example of what we did and what we still do as librarians. We go where our patrons are. Have a good story to share of going that “extra mile” for your patrons? Tell us in the comments.