Bookmobiles. Ever use one? I did, as a child, living on a farm 8 miles outside town and 12 miles from the nearest library, in the tiny hamlet of Arkville. Oh how I loved the scent of the thing, the sounds, the sight of other readers often lined up outside and on the retractible steps, parked on the edge of the firehall lot, filled with my favorite things: books. Heaven. I always came down those steps with my arms chock full, a pile of novels – no limits on check outs! – to devour over the next three weeks or a month (not sure how often it visited us, but I think it was monthly), a bounty that was pure wealth to me, absolute riches.


Long and narrow, I had no idea that, fast forward a few decades, I would myself be a librarian, but doesn’t it make sense? Book nerds all, although I also encountered some of the most controlling women ever, like ever And, some of the most intelligent, humorous, generous, and kind women I’d ever met. There were even a few library dudes. A very few, one of whom became a woman during my tenure as a librarian in rural upstate New York, a decade plus ago. Beth. Very sweet lady and very good at her job, which was assisting rural libraries into and safely through the late 20th into the 21st century of technology.

Reading was and is my refuge. I can still remember where and even how I was sitting on the couch, legs curled up beneath me, near a west facing window to catch the winter light, as I finished Jane Eyre. Jane Eyre. Mind officially blown, heart pounding. I had no idea books could do that, for although I had loved the Little House books, and related to the characters, this was on a whole other scale of emotion, connection, and internal combustion as not just my heart and mind were in tumult, my skin was on fire, my senses heightened – boom! Jane Eyre. What a different, fascinating, complex story, dark, mystical, scary, romantic but gasp aloud shocking (I was eleven, y’all), foreign and familiar – his wife is in the attic, and mad as a hatter? OMMMMMMGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGG.

These photos are courtesy of the Library of Congress, and I thank them for the reminder, not that I’d forgotten, exactly. In the age long before the internet and even cable TV, which didn’t make it to the farm until after I graduated high school (we only got one channel, CBS, during my kid-hood and even then it was a tad slanted toward an older audience), books and more books by authors like Mary Stewart, Mary Roberts Rhinehart, Judith Rossner, John Fowles, William Styron, Richard Adams, Irving Stone, Leon Uris, Helen MacInnes, Daphne DuMaurier and more were my entertainment, my sustenance, my escape, my joy.

All libraries feel like home to me, but the history of books on wheels being taken throughout the U.S., including in horse and buggy, along with the charm and character inherent to the bookmobile is undeniable.