First bookmobile hit the road in Kenosha in 1954

The library’s delivery van was used to haul the first bookmobile in 1954. There were two such book trailers which were detached and left at area schools on a schedule.

Kenosha’s bookmobile took its maiden voyage on June, 30, 1954.

Along with the Chevy van that pulled it, the stylized trailer was right out of the Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz movie “The Long, Long Trailer” of the same era.

In those days, most schools didn’t have their own libraries/media centers. Our first bookmobile route had stops at five public and five parochial schools and at three residential areas, all in the city.

The library delivery van seen in the photo was used to haul books among the Simmons Library, 711 59th Place; the Boys and Girls Library (Today’s Bradford Community Church Unitarian Universalist), 5810 Eighth Ave.; and the West Branch Library, 2419 63rd St.

It was hooked to one of two book trailers; each trailer could hold about 3,000 books. A trailer was then detached and left at a site for the day.

Circulation figures for the first six months showed 55,018 books were checked out by 1,797 registered patrons.

The first bookmobile

The concept of a bookmobile service first took hold in Hagerstown, Md., in April 1905.

Mary L. Titcomb, the librarian of the Washington County Free Library, sent out the first U.S. book wagon, pulled by two horses. It had space for 200 books on the outside of the wagon and storage space for more books inside.

About 1963 Kenosha schools began establishing their own libraries so the bookmobile visited only in the after-school hours and began carrying books for adults as well as children.

New model

A new tractor-trailer bookmobile was purchased and customized in 1986 for $92,000 and was put into service the following year. Nicknamed “The RIG” for Reading Is Great, it had a GMC tractor pulled by an International truck cab.

Around that time, the bookmobile took up rural stops west of I-94, including a day and a half in Twin Lakes.

When the Community Library was formed in 1993, the areas served by the bookmobile changed. The unit no longer stopped in areas of the county contributing direct tax support to Salem and Randall. This has evolved as the Community Library has expanded.

The latest bookmobile, purchased in 2004, is a customized 40-foot
rear-engine bus-like vehicle.