“You needn’t stop. We’ve no use for that death wagon around here,” a farmer shouted as a black horse-drawn wagon approached his Allegheny farm. It was not a hearse; it was America’s first traveling library. The year was 1905.
The first book wagon came about thanks to the dedication of The Washington County Free Library librarian, Mary Lemist Titcomb. She was determined to distribute books to the people of the community that had little or no access to the local library. She knew her community consisted of a “great army of men and women who use our public libraries to read because it gives them pleasure – because through books they are lifted out of all routine of every-day life, their imaginations are quickened and for the brief space that the books holds them in thrall the colors of life assume a brighter tint.”
Book mobiles have a special place in my heart. Bezuidenhout Valley, the suburb of Johannesburg, South Africa, that I lived in as a child, didn’t have a library. Every two weeks, I’d sprint home from school, change out of my uniform, put on my tackies (sneakers), run the four blocks to the corner of First Avenue and Second Street and wait anxiously for the traveling library to arrive.
As I climbed the steps up into the bus, I’d savor the tantalizing aroma of books and petrol fumes. We were only allowed to check out three books so that meant some tough decisions had to be made. Should I take three Willard Price books, or Enid Blyton’s Famous Five or Secret Seven, or should I take Nancy Drew mysteries? Or should I risk one of my choices on a book by an author I’d never read before?
At that time of my life, being new to the neighborhood, books were my only friends. I don’t know what I would have done without them. I’d fly through the my library books and the fortnight would crawl by until, hip hip hooray, Traveling Library Day!
And so, I bring you to the 3rd annual library-loving blog challenge hosted by Jenn Hubbard writerjenn. It won’t cost you a dime, only a moment of your time. For every comment posted here between March 28 and April 2nd, I will donate one dollar, (up to a maximum of $100) to a traveling library. Your comment doesn’t have to be anything fancy or witty, a simple “I love libraries!” will do. Or you can tell me about your adventures in bookmobiles or about a librarian that has inspired you.
Spread the word ... please link to this post, tweet about it, mention it on Facebook, etc. You can raise money for additional local libraries by visiting the blogs of others participating in this blog challenge at http://writerjenn.livejournal.com/234087.html