Earlier this week, we went nuts over this 1928 bookmobile that we spotted at BoingBoing. The rudimentary unit with giant wheels serviced Los Angeles hospitals as part of a program with the LA public library to reach those immobilized due to illness or disability. Thankfully, there are some bookmobiles that still perform these types of important services today, helping to bring great reads and social interaction to people who need a little literary TLC. However, you don’t have to be home or hospital bound in order to appreciate a bookmobile (as Alec Baldwin could tell you). The roving libraries can be educational, too, or just unique art forms with an added bonus: books! We hit the road and friendly skies (in our imaginations, anyway) and searched for remarkable bookmobiles to inspire you, our fellow bookworms. If there’s a mobile library you love that we didn’t include, share it with us below in the comments section.
The Slumgullion is a publishing collaboration that “strives to create community, empower young voices, and promote literacy and the humanities through the book arts and zines.” The group’s low-fi, bicycle-powered bookmobile distributes various reads across Missoula, Montana — particularly art-focused zines and comics for all ages.
Armed with approximately 300 books that include everything from small press publications to bigger name titles, the sleek Mobilivre Bookmobile travels across America and Canada annually. The vintage airstream trailer is supported through the help of volunteers — many based in Philadelphia and Montreal, QC — happily and stylishly distributing the written word.
We don’t know much about this incredible 1949 Chevy-turned-bookmobile. We did find out that the owner acquired the vehicle in 1995 and also owns a 1966 Rolls Royce previously owned by Liberace. Clearly this quirky gentleman has a unique style, but we’re happiest to know he loves books.
The Free Books/Liquid Books Bookmobile can be spotted around Monterrey, CA. We hope “liquid” is code for being able to read these with a straw.
This mobile service in the city of Edinburgh wants to instill a lifelong love of reading in all who hop on-board. Most importantly, it’s geared toward young readers, and visits schools, nurseries, and various community centers across the city promoting powerful messages about reading. Certain areas inside look like a colorful playhouse.
According to a report last month, around 150,000 people (four percent) in Bogor, West Java, Indonesia (an area near the capital city) are illiterate and not fluent in their native language. While learning centers are sprouting up to help combat the issue, we wanted to note this awesome, miniature bookmobile spotted in the region a few years ago — proving people there definitely desire more books.
The Weapon of Mass Instruction
Artist and activist Lemesoff Raul owns a “Weapon of Mass Instruction.” The conceptual art-minded vehicle is a refitted 1979 Ford Falcon — a car that belonged to the Argentinean army that has since been turned into a mobile book tank. The “military” library can hold up to 900 books, which Raul distributes for free as a way to spread messages of peace and literacy.
Kenya’s mobile library also breathes, walks, and makes noise. The Camel Bookmobile brings reads to the desolate northeastern province of Kenya, near the border of Somalia. There are few streets in the isolated region, and famine and drought are familiar occurrences. The beastly bookmobile was started by a librarian in 1996 and consists of 12 camels that travel to four settlements per day, four days a week. Most of the books are written in the two main languages of Kenya — English or Swahili — and they range from children’s titles to nonfiction tomes. You can find out how to donate books to the library over here. Apparently the semi-nomadic patrons love seeing personal inscriptions in each book, because it helps them feel connected to parts of the world they’ve always dreamed about.
Donkey-Drawn Renewable Solar Energy E-Library
The donkeys of the world didn’t want the camels to steal their thunder, so we had to include this awesome donkey-drawn bookmobile. The carts are connected to renewable solar energy facilities that are fitted with television and radio receiver sets. That allows the bookmobile to play educational videos, audiotapes, and CDs — all of which are operated from the mobile carts. It’s a lifeline for those who live in remote areas, cut off from the rest of the world by lack of resources — like Zimbabwe, where the government no longer supplies schools with books.
Even though the Border Bookmobile isn’t much to look at, it serves a unique purpose that stood out to us. The wheeled library is described as a “research platform and mobile exhibition of books, artist projects, photographs and ephemera about the urban history of the Windsor-Detroit region and other border cities around the world.” It’s all housed in a 1993 Chrysler Voyager minivan, which was produced in the largest auto factory in Windsor — “a symbol of the economic cycles of the region and the vicissitudes of manufacturing and trade that constitute local history.”
The Miracle is a Los Angeles and Oakland-based bookmobile that “activates redistribution of used literature.” The project has been described as a “radical queer project devoted to distributing queer materials, science fiction, radical political publications, zines, pulp, smut, local West Coast history, memoirs, books en Español, and more.” Follow the above link to give them some Tumblr love.
DIY publishing abounds at The Fly Away Zine Mobile, which houses around 1,000 zines and a collection of musical instruments that can be borrowed. The vehicle is a 1997 Chevy Astro Van converted into a free lending library, self-publishing skill-sharer, and miniature reading room that travels around the country. The group wants to find a bigger bookmobile so they can run the monster on waste veggie oil. In the meantime, it’s a much-loved staple for indie lit lovers everywhere.