Brooklyn History Photo of the Week: Brooklyn Bookmobiles

One of Brooklyn Public Library’s Twin Bookmobiles, ca. 1960, v1973.4.445; Postcard Collection, Brooklyn Historical Society.

If one were to ask you “what makes Brooklyn unique?”  you may think of its diverse communities or its unique role in American history. But what about something as simple as bookmobiles? Since 1951 Brooklyn Public Library’s bookmobiles have been cruising the streets and making scheduled stops in neighborhoods that are a half-mile or more away from the nearest library. Embracing an attitude of “if the people can’t get to the books, we’ll bring the books to the people,” the bookmobiles were incredibly successful. In 1952 alone the bookmobiles lent out 252,323 books with an average book circulation of 238 books per hour (four books per minute). The original trucks were 27 feet long, eight feet wide, weighed 21,500 pounds, and housed 2,500 books at a time.

Today the bookmobiles are still revving their engines and circulating books across Brooklyn year-round to communities whose libraries are under renovation during the week and to community events on Saturdays. They have traded in their original white and blue paint job for a more modern green. They are also larger and carry more books: bookmobiles are now 29 feet long, nine and a half feet tall, and able to house 6,000 books. The Brooklyn Public Library has also diversified the bookmobile fleet. There are now orange Kidsmobiles which stop at schools during the school year and parks in the summer. There are also red bookmobiles that cater to the Spanish-speaking communities called Bibliobús. This unique part of Brooklyn will continue to be a time honored tradition for Brooklynites of all ages. So, get your reading list together and chase that truck! For bookmobile schedules and information please visit the Brooklyn Public Library’s Bookmobile site.

Interested in seeing more photos from BHS’s collection? Visit our online image gallery, which includes a selection of our images. To search our entire collection of images visit BHS’s Othmer Library Wed-Fri, 1:00-5:00 p.m.

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One Response to Brooklyn History Photo of the Week: Brooklyn Bookmobiles

  1. Jeff Lima says:

    Many neighborhoods in Brooklyn were nearly all white in 1960, so a picture with all whites wouldn’t be unusual. I have no idea why they’d be clean, though.

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