Bookmobiles as Outreach Tools Part 3: Today’s Bookmobiles – When?

Today’s Bookmobiles: When

Bookmobiles have also been improving their services by careful selection of routes and stops to reach targeted populations. Section 1.4 of the ABOS Guidelines (2008) identifies the criteria for selecting and maintaining bookmobile stops. The Guidelines specify that the bookmobile schedule must take into account appropriate hours of service for the different populations, a minimum half hour duration per stop, and ongoing evaluation of stops which allows for schedule changes as needed (National Book Mobile Guidelines, 2008). Some bookmobiles meet this criteria by adhering to a specific schedule, which is evaluated on an ongoing basis to ensure it remains effective in reaching the target populations. The Tippecanoe County Public Library (TCPL) Mobile Library, for instance, rotates between a summer, fall, and winter/spring schedule with 36 stops every other week, and stop durations ranging from thirty minutes to two hours and fifteen minutes (Clements, 2008).

Others, like the Memphis/Shelby County InfoBUS, pride themselves on retaining maximum flexibility by having a different schedule each week (King & Shanks, 2000). The InfoBUS’s manager believes that not being “bound to a schedule like a [traditional] bookmobile […] allows us to be very specific about what we want to do when we get there” (King & Shanks, 2000). In other words, the InfoBUS can best serve its target populations with a constantly changing schedule that allows staff to provide of-the-moment programs and services to InfoBUS patrons. Whatever the model, bookmobile are committed to providing regular services as needed to their targeted populations.



The bookmobile as an outreach tool has a rich and ongoing history in American life. Bookmobiles continue to provide needed materials and services to populations without ready access to a library building. By following guidelines and standards, identifying target populations, and aligning their services to the needs of their current patrons, bookmobiles have successfully brought a wide variety of quality resources to their patrons. Dedicated bookmobile librarians know that, “[w]hen we deliver public library resources and services to our patrons’ neighborhoods, backyards, parking lots, and parks, we know that we are displaying an undeniably high level of commitment to our community. Our patrons value us and we value them” (Clements, 2008). This, surely, is the mark of successful outreach: that libraries strive to connect their communities to the most valuable library resources and services.


Bashaw, D. (2010). On the Road Again: A Look at Bookmobiles, Then and Now. Children & Libraries: The Journal of the Association for Library Service to Children, 8(1), 32-35.

Clements, A. (2008). On the Move with the TCPL Mobile Library: What it takes to Keep Rolling. Indiana Libraries, 27(1), 26-32.

Cummings, J. (2009). “How Can We Fail?” The Texas State Library’s Traveling Libraries and Bookmobiles,1916-1966. Libraries & The Cultural Record, 44(3), 299-325.

Gardner, F. (2009). Discovery Bus. Indiana Libraries, 28(1) 2-5.

King, B. & Shanks, T. (2000). This is Not Your Father’s Bookmobile. Library Journal, Summer2000 Net Connect, 14-17.

McMeekin, M. (2014). Responding to Change. Argus (Montreal, Quebec), 42(3), 20-23.

National Bookmobile Day 2015 – Bookmobiles at a Glance. (2015). American Library Association, Office for Literacy and Outreach Services (OLOS). Retrieved from

National Bookmobile Guidelines. (2008). Association of Bookmobile & Outreach Services. Retrieved from

Outreach Services. (2014). Toledo-Lucas County Public Library. Retrieved from

Passet, J. E. (1991). Reaching the Rural Reader: Traveling Libraries in America,1892-1920. Libraries & Culture, 26(1), 100-0118.


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