First Oregon Bookmobile?

Photo of Old Bookmobile

This Allegheny County bookmobile is a larger version of what an early Oregon bookmobile could have looked like. (Photo source:

During my research at the Oregon State Library (also known informally as the State of Oregon Library), I ran across a fun bit of information for those bookmobile folks out there. Back in 1946, the “Library Board of Various Counties [of the] State of Oregon” inquired about ordering a custom vehicle capable of performing bookmobile service from the Grout Implementing and Truck Company of Vancouver Washington.

It is unknown if this was the only bid submitted–it is likely that there were others. And it is not certain from this bid letter whether a bookmobile was actually purchased, but it is fun to try to imagine it.

So what could this first bookmobile have looked like? It would have been very basic from the trucking company’s proposed description. It was 21 feet long, nearly 8 feet wide, and no taller than 9 feet 4 inches in height. And it cost roughly $7,200 per vehicle.

The frame would have been made of dried fir reinforced with steel, and the exterior would have consisted of aluminum sheets. The walls and ceiling would have had two inches of insulation and been covered by 1/2 inch-thick plywood sheets. The floors made of 1 inch-thick fir wood and covered with “battleship linoleum.” “Safety glass” would have been used on the windshield, door and rear windows. The hood would have been metal and contained asbestos. The wheel housings would have been “dust proof and sealed,” and two windshield wipers in the front and one for the back.

It would have had two adjustable “bucket seats” with possibly a third so that the book mobile could carry a driver and two passengers. The steering wheel would have been vertical to allow the driver to “sit well forward,” along with other custom modifications. Plus it had “two gopher fans” at the windshield for air circulation and defrosting, and a Stewart Warner gasoline heater for heat.

Inside the main part of the bookmobile, “suitable shelving” would have been attached to the walls and floor. The dimensions of the shelves were 10 inches deep, one foot between shelves that would go from the floor to ceiling, and tilted at a 15 degree angle with rubber matting so books wouldn’t slide off of the shelves while driving.

A dome light would have been attached to the ceiling, powered by a separate 32 volt generator that came from “war surplus” or a heavy duty policy-type 32 volt battery.

To view the scanned original document, click here.  It also has some interesting notes about knowing your library written on the back of the document.

About repplinger

John has served as a Reference Librarian at Willamette University since 2002. He is the liaison to the Science Departments, and is responsible for maintaining the collections related to the life & physical sciences. His research interests range over the entire spectrum of libraries and information sciences, but includes: - Google and its influence on information & society - The Internet's influence on information seeking & sharing behaviors - Trends of scholarly communication - Electronic learning environments - Traditional pedagogy - GIS use in academic libraries

Posted on May 30, 2012, in Libraries, Oregon Library Association. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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