Today is National Bookmobile Day. Check out our "Bookmobiles" page to see information about the history of bookmobiles in Wisconsin. Paul Nelson has a nice post on his blog about bookmobiles which has some Wisconsin bookmobile images and information. The Library History Buff Blog also has a list of the best bookmobile websites. The item shown above is a paper cutout assembled as a bookmobile. It was given out to children by the Winding Rivers Library System in La Crosse, Wisconsin several years ago. The badge to the left was worn by the bookmobile driver of the Oshkosh Public Library. The bookmobile service for the Oshkosh Public Library was discontinued in 2007 due to budget constraints. Based on the fastener on back of the badge, I think it was probably worn on the driver's hat. The vehicle shown on the badge appears to be a bus. It is likely that the company that made the badge supplied badges to bus drivers and they used the same basic design for the bookmobile badge.
As part of National Library Week this year there is going to be a National Bookmobile Day on April 14. On the Wisconsin Library Heritage Center website there is a bookmobile page which chronicles some of Wisconsin's bookmobile past. National Bookmobile Day provides an opportunity for any library that has had bookmobile service in the past to communicate that legacy to the public. There are some wonderful photographs which show the heritage and contribution of the bookmobile to public library service in Wisconsin. Why not see if you have any of these and show them off on National Bookmobile Day. If you still have a bookmobile how about a bookmobile open house. The image above shows Racine Public Library Librarian Muriel Marchant with a vehicle that was referred to as the "library car".
Note: This entry was also posted on the Library History Buff Blog on Feb. 10, 2009. More on bookmobiles in Wisconsin can be found here.
"From 1895 through October, 1914, I traveled thousands of miles in Wisconsin by stage, sleigh, buggy, wagon, passenger coach, and caboose, wearing out five fur coats in succession in my efforts to reach all parts of the state. In taking traveling libraries to the rural districts of Dunn and Wood Counties during the winter I would secure a black bearskin to wear over my fur-lined muskrat coat, which was inadequate for the frequent below zero weather. I would get a three-seated sleigh, remove the last two seats, and fill the space with books which I would locate in farmers' homes, rural post offices, schools, and other available stations. On reaching what was then Grand Rapids--now Wisconsin Rapids--late one evening after a forty-mile drive, a long day's drive in those times, my black bearskin attracted the attention of Mrs. Anna W. Evans, Librarian, who wrote the following poem concerning my appearance:
There is a woman named Stearns;
Her living she easily earns,
By driving 'round,
When the snow's on the ground.
Though the dangers she never discerns.
She dons a coat of black hair;
A cap is next put on with care;
She looks like a man,
But to tell you ne'er can
If the product be woman, or bear.
Now if in her drives through the brush,
A Bruin should come out with a rush,
Would the woman hug the bear,
Or the bear hug the hair?
Or which would be lost in the crush?
Would the bear barely hug the bold jade?
Or the bearskin propelled by the maid
Hug the bear? or the hair
Of the bear would she tear
Or her own, as the price to be paid?"
The image of Lutie Stearns is from the Wisconsin Historical Society’s Historical Image Collection, Image ID: 29372.
Photograph of an early Marathon County Public Library bookmobile along with library trustees. Reproduced with permission of the library.
Many library institutions are digitizing a wide variety of printed resources which record our cultural heritage. Wisconsin has a number of major initiatives for digitizing such resources. As is often the case, libraries have a tendency to overlook their own unique heritage when pursuing digital projects. This is not the case with the Marathon County Public Library. One of the collections in the "State of Wisconsin Collection" of digital resources is the "Libraries and Schools of Marathon and Lincoln Counties" collection. For this collection the Marathon County Public Library has contributed 96 images relating to the library's history. These images include photographs and historic documents. Other libraries are encouraged to emulate the Marthon County Public Library and digitize similar resources related to your library's heritage.