Get on board with these 9 mobile libraries

beep beep books
© Beep Beep Books

Mobile libraries put books in the hands of those that don't have access to a local library. That's something we can easily take for granted as we access books through our Kindles, iPhones and everything in between. These libraries are on board a vehicle — a van, bicycle and even a boat — with bookshelves full of titles that residents are free to peruse and take home.

One of the earliest mobile libraries was in 1857 and pulled by horse carriage in England. It circulated around eight villages. The next year, another horse-drawn library popped up in England, The Warrington Perambulating Library.

These inventive libraries even have their own national day. The American Library Association sponsors an annual National Bookmobile Day and celebrates bookmobiles and their dedication to serving their communities.

Here are nine mobile libraries from around the world that bring literature to people every day.

1. Bus stop library in Bogota, Colombia

This library is a bit more stationary than a mobile library, but it helps those waiting for public transportation. There are around 47 bus stop libraries around Bogota, Colombia and more in other cities. They are staffed by volunteers and their mission is simple — to spread and promote literacy in the country. You can check books out and the staff members are available to answer questions and even help children with their homework.

2. Two-wheel library in Portland

streetbooks© Street Books
This bike-powered library's mission is to provide books to homeless folks in Portland. Laura Moulton, the artist behind Street Books, moves around the city to designated spots. Then she checks out books to people using an old-school card catalog system, giving them a week to read them. They have now grown to a team of seven people since 2011.

3. Tell a Story in Portugal

This cute bright blue van drives around Lisbon, Portugal and it keeps its shelves stocked with classic Portuguese books translated to English, French, Italian, German and Spanish. The "Tell a Story" project is a way to promote local culture and give more access to local literature by translating important titles.

4. Il Ilbibliomotocarro in Italy

ilbibliomotocarro© ilbibliomotocarro
ilbibliomotocarro1© ilbibliomotocarro
After 42 years of teaching, Antonio La Cava bought a used truck and modified it to house 700 books. He travels the Italian countryside and like an ice cream truck, he has his own distinctive sound — the organ. His 8-stop journey takes more than 300 miles and he does it all for free.

5. Beep Beep Books in Cebu, Philippines

beep beep books© Beep Beep Books
Beep Beep Books is a mobile library project to provide books to the children in disaster-hit areas. The bright multicolored refurbished jeepney collects new and used books and puts together “starter sets” of 100 children’s books to help school libraries restart.

6. Jakarta motorbike-powered library van

mobile library jakarta© Duncan Graham/The Jakarta Post
Nuradi Indra Wijaya co-founded Mata Aksara, a mobile library in Jakarta, following the success of their one-room library at their store. Now, he drives the motorbike weekly to six villages and asks what sort of books they want and comes back to deliver them. You can see how small communities are changing thanks to their efforts. The Jakarta Post explains:
When the Mata Aksara mobile library first visited Nglebeng several years ago the community asked for books on plant breeding and organic farming. According to Adi, the village has since stopped using artificial fertilizers in favor of organics and now harvests three times a year instead of two. Growers have also developed a variety called salak madu (honey snake fruit) that sells at a premium.

7. Mongolian Children’s Mobile Library

mobile camel library © Jambyn Dashdondog/Mongolian Children’s Culture Foundation/Go Help
The Mongolian Children’s Mobile Library carries books to nomadic herding communities and remote areas of the Gobi desert with the help of a camel. Most libraries in the country were converted to banks decades ago, decreasing access to books in remote areas. The library has traveled 50,000 miles through every province of the country over the last 20 years.

8. Floating Library in Cedar Lake, Minnesota

mobile library water© Floating Library
The Floating Library is a custom-made wooden structure, 8-feet square, stocked with around 80 handmade titles. No bestsellers here. The books hang out on all sides of the boat, protected by water resistant covers and managed by a rotating number of staff members. The library can be accessed by other vessels like canoes, paddle boats and kayaks.

9. Bus Library in New Orleans' Lower 9th Ward

nola mobile library© Kathleen Flynn, l The Times-Picayune
Laurence Copel runs a small library out of her house on Saturdays and also rides a tricycle bookmobile to help her mission of keeping books in children's hands around the 9th ward in New Orleans. Now, she's added a yellow van, a larger bookmobile, with the hopes of raising the money to drive around and give children in the area access to even more books.

Get on board with these 9 mobile libraries
From a bike bookmobile to a floating library to books on a camel, these mobile libraries think outside the box to bring more books to the masses.

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