Book Me

An old mate from high school days is writing a book about growing up in our small community in the 1950s. Alderwood was moving from its roots as a semi-rural community towards the postwar sprawl of suburbia. I wrote a bit about it a few years ago. On our high school FaceBook page Bob was asking if any of us had memories of the public library in our area and the bookmobile that proceeded it.

An Etobicoke Public Library Bookmobile.
An Ali Baba’s cave to many of us.

Though I had recalled the library I had forgotten that silver and green – funny I remember it as being all green – truck/bus that pulled into Alderwood Memorial Park once every two weeks. You lined up outside and were let in two or three at a time – there wasn’t room for any more along with the librarian and driver. The selection wasn’t the most wide ranging but to most of us it was a treasure trove. For some reason in my memory it was always raining on bookmobile day and it was a struggle to keep the books you were returning dry under your raincoat. Of course that wasn’t really the case – after all it was Canada so there must have been times when it was snowing!

I suppose the first mobile libraries were the story tellers, bards and minstrels that have travelled from campfire to village to castle since the beginning of time. However the first recorded instance of a “bookmobile” as we think of it goes back to 1839 to the American School Library, a suite of books published by Harper & Brothers that toured the frontier towns. In 1857 George Moore created a “perambulating library” that visited eight towns in Cumbria in Northern England. Strangely, given the current state of education there, it appears that the U. S. the movement for bookmobiles was spearheaded by The Women’s Clubs of Texas. In the United Kingdom they were advocated and set up by women’s organizations and trades guilds and organizations. In Canada it was a combination of women’s organizations and philanthropists that lead the fight to establish public libraries – both mobile and stationary. As a sidebar it is interesting that 125 permanent libraries were built across Canada between 1901-1917, all funded by Andrew Carnegie.

The motorized bookmobile first appeared in the 1920s and they were able to reach a wider audience in remote communities across the Country. When the Etobicoke Public Library Board was created in 1950 a bookmobile to visit the smaller communities in the Township was included in their mandate. In 1958 we had reached a size that we were given our own library and the bookmobile was no more.

The word for June 21st is:
Library /ˈlīˌbrerē,ˈlīb(ə)rē/: [noun]
1.1 A building or room containing collections of books, periodicals, and sometimes films and recorded music for people to read, borrow, or refer to.
1.2 A collection of books and periodicals held in a library.”the Institute houses an outstanding library of 35,000 volumes on the fine arts”
1.3 A room in a private house where books are kept.
Late Middle English: via Old French from Latin libraria ‘bookstore’, feminine (used as a noun) of librarius ‘relating to books’, from liber, libr- ‘book’.

Author: Willym

A senior with the heart of a young'un

4 thoughts on “Book Me”

  1. Mystery solved: You probably don’t remember the silver because you were very young (and short!) and all you could see when up close was the green!
    Thanks for your library reminiscence. While I never experienced a bookmobile, I have vivid memories of the Beaches Branch. It still sits in the park near the boardwalk and the lake in the Beaches. At primary school, the entire class would walk (yes! Walk! it’s hard now to believe w school children walked.) to the library on Main Street and had a session with the librarian who would read selections from books to us.
    Sure hope they still do that today. It creates lifelong memories.

  2. We have a Carnegie library here in Edmonton called the Strathcona Public Library. It’s a beautiful old building, recently renovated and upgraded. It’s still a real little community hub in the trendy shopping/bars/restaurants area of Old Strathcona.

  3. I loved the bookmobile. It parked just a block away from us on suburban Long Island when I was young. I had only just begun to read. It was like a treasure chest to me. And the librarian was wonderful.

  4. what a great memory, this is.
    I have many warm memories of father taking us to the library to find books.

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