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History of Bookmobile
Worcester Public Library’s first Bookmobile was launched on Monday, November 18, 1940 under the leadership of Head Librarian Emerson Greenaway. The vehicle carried 2,700 volumes on its first run. By the end of the week 2,500 of them had been checked out. Initially, the Bookmobile employed a staff of 8, including two drivers, and made 21 scheduled stops per week.
Within a year, the Bookmobile, like the city of Worcester as a whole, was experiencing the stresses of wartime. Gasoline rationing, along with the induction of several male drivers into the armed services, threatened to ground this increasingly popular service. However, the Bookmobile drove on, in the capable hands of women for whom, in the words of Assistant Librarian Thurston Taylor, “driving a seven-ton truck was hardly a joke,” and who were determined “that persons would keep on reading.” By the 1950s, the men had returned, and once again, took the wheel.
During the 1950s and early 1960s the Worcester Public Library grappled with the challenges posed by the baby boom. The Bookmobile was intended, in part, to provide service to areas of the city that were not in easy reach of the Main Library or one of its branches. However, the burgeoning school-age population sometimes taxed the resources available through the Bookmobile. The Library sought an increase in qualified staff, and in 1954, the original vehicle was replaced by a “new and improved” model, produced by the Thomas S Moroney Company of Shrewsbury.
In 1951, the Bookmobile circulated 150,000 books, “more than half the total checked out each year at the Main Library.” In 1969, circulation through the Bookmobile exceeded that of any branch library. A third vehicle, also produced by Moroney was purchased in 1968. In line with WPL’s ongoing commitment to providing “more than books”, the Bookmobile began showing films each day at the last stop on its route during the summer of 1969.
Vehicles were replaced. Librarians were hired. Drivers retired. Stops were added and dropped, and populations changed. Through it all, the Bookmobile served the citizens of Worcester for fifty years. It is hard to find a Worcesterite over the age of forty who does not have fond memories of our city’s “Busload of books.”
By the early 1980s, however, with the passage of Proposition 2 and 1/2 the Bookmobile was in jeopardy. Operations ceased in 1982. A limited service aimed at children (Kidstop) and older adults (SeniorStop) was reinstituted in 1987, visiting schools and nursing homes until the early nineties when the Bookmobile ground to a halt.
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