By: Aleisha Smith
Hi, I’m the Library Link, also known as Mo the Library on the Go—check out my Instagram account! I’m sure you sit up at night wondering how I came to be at Coquitlam Public Library. Well, I’m here to tell you. Read the interview I did below to find out the history of bookmobiles, and well, me!
Q: When did bookmobiles originate?
Mo: They originated in 19th
century England! Back then, they were pulled by horses. Check out this picture of the Perambulating Library, one of the first recorded bookmobiles, in 1850s Warrington, England.
Q: What about in Canada?
Mo: In the 1920s, a British Columbia Public Library Commission created a plan to expand library service beyond Victoria. Even in these early meetings, there was talk of using book trucks, railway cars, and library boats to reach remote parts of the province.
On February 17, 1930, Fraser Valley received the first book truck in Canada. It was nicknamed “Parnassus on Wheels” after Christopher Morley’s 1917 book and serviced Hope to Ladner. There were no Fraser Valley branches at that time, but there was a central station in Chilliwack.1
Q: Then how did they come to be in Coquitlam?
Mo: Well, I was not around back then, but from what I’ve read, the Coquitlam Public Library opened its doors in 1976. A quick look in the Coquitlam Archives shows bookmobiles were part of the Committee discussions about creating a public library in the 1960s. There were suggestions on where the “Bookmobile Stations” could be located.2
Fast forward around forty years, and you get the beginning of Coquitlam Public Library’s bookmobile service. It started as a special project in November of 2009 and ran for roughly three months. Regular service was introduced in July of 2010. The first vehicle, a 1992 Ford Ecoline van, was purchased from West Vancouver Memorial Library. It served the library well until it was sadly destroyed in an engine fire in May of 2014.
A permanent replacement, a Ford F-450 (that’s me!), was purchased from Sno-Isle Libraries near Seattle. I was outfitted with Wi-Fi and a sound system. Although I was a used vehicle, I was much more affordable than a new one. Fundraising and insurance paid for the new wheels, as well as a generous donation of $20,000 from Wesbild Holdings. The 2015 relaunch was thanks to my sponsors Wesbild, Industrial Alliance, Friends of Coquitlam Public Library, Rotary of Coquitlam, and community members.
Now I am happy to serve the communities of Burquitlam on Mondays, Maillardville on Tuesdays and Wednesdays, Westwood Plateau on Wednesdays, Tri-City Family Place and Town Centre Park on Thursdays, Galloway Park and Burke Mountain on Fridays, Cottonwood Park on Saturday mornings, and Riley Park on Burke Mountain on Sunday Mornings. I love my job and meeting so many new friends. I still have a couple of good years left in me. Until then, I’ll just keep trekking along! See my schedule here.
Fun Fact: Traveling libraries exist all around the world such as Biblioburros (donkey libraries) in Colombia, two-wheeled carts in India, camel libraries in Kenya, elephant-drawn libraries in Thailand, and library ships in western Norway.3
1. Wikimedia Commons https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:WarringtonPerambulatingLibrary.jpg
2. Borrowers gathered at the Fraser Valley book van to make their selections in the 1930s. Bette Cannings in The Library Book: A History of Service to British Columbia by Dave Obee (2011)
3. “Participants in a Depression-era spring festival take time to celebrate the arrival of library service to the Fraser Valley.” Fraser Valley Regional Library in The Library Book by Dave Obee (2011)
4. Photo Source: Tri-City News http://www.tricitynews.com/news/258199161.html
1. Obee, D. (2011). The Library Book: A History of Service to British Columbia. British Columbia Library Association.
2. City of Coquitlam. Council and Office of the City Clerk (1891-). (February 8, 1962). Library Committee (Minutes 1962-63). Accessed through City of Coquitlam Archives Ref code: CA CCOQ F1-S07-32-2-32-2.5.
3. A History of the Bookmobile . POV. (2011). http://archive.pov.org/biblioburro/bookmobile/#:~:text=Inspired%20by%20reports%20of%20small,turn%20of%20the%2020th%20century.&text=She%20developed%20a%20horse%2Ddrawn,general%20stores%20and%20post%20offices.