ASSOCIATES (vol. 9, no. 3, March 2003) -

*Book Wagons to Book Mobiles*


Tinker Massey
University of South Carolina
Richland County Public Library

"Hi! Josh here. I was just waiting for you to come today."

"Iím Fred. I guess you were curious to see how new and efficient I am."

"Well, I was interested in seeing all that new electronic equipment you have. ButÖ I want to talk with you before you get on the road. I think itís important for you to understand the history of all our worn out equipment, so you can be mindful of your duties and responsibilities. Way back in the 1890ís, Mr. Dewey came up with some money in New York State to send out the first book wagon. It had lots of boxes of books that were available for rural folk to see and read. They could borrow a whole box, read them until the wagon came by again, about three to six months time, and then return them to get another box of books. It was the only literature available in the country. The program was so well received, that other states began to run their own book wagons. Of course, there were areas in the mountains where only mules and horses could carry the books in saddlebags or baskets, and boats did the job around rivers and lakes. I guess there were as many different kinds of carriers as types of land to cross. As the years went by, horse drawn wagons turned into trucks, cars, vans and sometimes buses. Each new model was better than the last, with more new inventions or cubbyholes. Some vehicles were like mobile homes that expanded in size when they reached their assigned spots. Most of the vehicles were pushed very hard to reach all the outlying areas and sometimes they were used to reach the poorer areas in large cities. No matter what the vehicle, how well it was arranged and filled, or who was driving, the sight of one of us coming brought tears and joy to many. We have been used as emergency vehicles, communication stations, teachers to non-readers, blessings to the book-starved and enlightenment to the oppressed. We have seen the movement of generations of people from country to city and back again. We have witnessed the effects of war, birth, death, and all the afflictions a lifetime can bring, but we have seen their eyes and their hearts. We know that people love us and wait for our return as they have always done. They depend on us to bring them a breath of life itself, a glimmer of hope and love and destiny wrapped in the covers of a million different books or words and music from our audio/video collections. We are the backbone of their existence and the reason some children become the best scholars. We have a role to play in those lives and we do it with all the dignity and energy we can muster. Be sure you carry on that tradition! NowÖ show me all that pretty new equipment. Donít leave out a thing!"

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