Friday, January 30, 2009

Before there were bookmobiles

My friend Abbi wrote about a unique take on the bookmobile: the biblioburro. This made me think in turn of Kentucky's version: the pack horse librarians.

These determined lady librarians and their horses delivered books and other materials to remote homes in eastern Kentucky between 1933 and 1943. Popular books included Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm and Robinson Crusoe, and popular magazines included National Geographic and Popular Mechanics. Demand for reading material outstripped the number of books available, so the librarians began clipping newspaper articles and recipes, and other odds and ends, to create scrapbooks to loan to the greedy readers. What I found especially moving: the patrons themselves started creating scrapbooks detailing their own recipes and family history and local stories so that these, too, could circulate among their fellow eastern Kentuckians.

The statistics from 1939 tell us that 30 packhorse libraries served 48,195 families on a monthly basis. The libraries had a total of 154,846 books which circulated 889,694 times. This is amazing, considering how remote eastern Kentucky was (and still is).

You can read more about Kentucky's pack librarians at KDLA's website: The "Book Women" of Eastern Kentucky: W.P.A.'s Pack Horse Librarians

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