Library On Wheels by Sharlee Glenn

Mar 8, 2022 | Women

LIBRARY ON WHEELS:  MARY LEMIST TITCOMB AND AMERICA’S FIRST BOOKMOBILE

Summary:

The author grew up on a rural farm in Utah and had little access to books.  But because of Mary Titcomb’s desire to make the library serve all the people, not just those who lived in towns or had leisure time to read, she “invented” the bookmobile in the early 1900s.  Sharlee Glenn has wonderful memories of when the bookmobile pulled into her family’s driveway during the 60s and 70s.  Having access to books fed her childhood love of reading and eventually doing research to write for various publications as well as author children’s books.  

Well researched with extensive notes and bibliographical information, Library On Wheels, takes the reader back in time.  The author’s note provides a surprising and heartwarming personal connection to the life of Mary Lemist Titcomb.       

This book is designed to look old, depicting the late 1800s and early 1900s in which Mary developed her expertise in all matters concerning libraries. In 1901 she became the head librarian of the Washington County, Maryland library.  The county encompassed 458 square miles and had a population of about 45,000 at the time.  Her innovations included creating a children’s section, erecting deposit stations of books throughout the county, and having a bookmobile constructed that was pulled by two horses.  Eventually the bookmobile concept evolved to motor driven vans and buses.  

The old photographs and illustrations make the experience of reading this book like looking at a frayed scrapbook.  Older children in grades 4-6 will have the attention span and reading vocabulary to enjoy it.  As a read-aloud selection it may stimulate conversations about libraries, Dewey Decimal System of organization, access to books, and bookmobiles.  

Activities

The author attributes Mary’s success to her qualities of determination and not giving up when told she couldn’t do something special.  Students may think and write about a time they “didn’t give up” in their pursuit of something desired.   

Students may want to look at old family photos.  Do they have an ancestor who did “something special?”  Perhaps they would like to show an old photo and tell you about it.  

Libraries have changed through the years.  How are today’s libraries different from the libraries of Mary’s time?  A list may be generated during whole class discussion while referring to the book and perhaps with the assistance of a visiting librarian.  

What about the students‘ community library?  Does it have a bookmobile?  Do students have user cards?  What services does it provide?

Find more information about the book from the author here.

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