For a child, summertime is all about making memories. Growing up in the suburbs of Washington, D.C., one of my fondest memories was the bookmobile. Twice a month a library on wheels rolled into the neighborhood. I still remember the wallop of arctic air that hit me as soon as I climbed aboard. It was the perfect escape from the hot and sticky summer months.
Although I loved the library, there was something magical about the bookmobile driving into the neighborhood. The endless rows of books became my summer friends who transported me to distant places. It was there that I met, The Box Car Children, Little House on the Prairie, and The Nancy Drew Mysteries. With a stamp of black ink, they were mine to devour for two weeks.
Mary Titcomb launched the first bookmobile in the United States at the turn of the 20th century. Her goal was to extend the reach of the Washington County Free Library in Maryland by starting a book transport system to rural communities. She developed a horse-drawn library wagon to send boxes of books to nearby general stores and post offices. The book wagon had space for 200 books on the outside and storage space for more books on the inside. The wagon was pulled by two horses while the janitor from the library held the reins.
Sadly, I haven’t seen a bookmobile since my childhood, but they still exist today. There has been a decline in services over the years, but the bookmobile remains a part of our cultural landscape in all states with the exception of Maine. At last count, Kentucky leads the way with 98 bookmobiles.
I’m so grateful to have grown up during a time where bookmobiles traveled the streets of my neighborhood. In those days, my biggest decision during summer vacation was what book to take to the pool.
What’s your favorite summertime memory from childhood?