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Birmingham Public Library Unveils State-of-the-Art Bookmobile

From left: Birmingham City Council Education Chair, J.T. Moore; Birmingham Public Library Executive Director Janine Langston; Birmingham-Jefferson County Transit Authority Executive Director Charlotte Shaw and Council Transportation Chair Darrell O'Quinn outside BPL's new bus. (Ryan Michaels, The Birmingham Times)

The Birmingham Times

The Birmingham Public Library (BPL) on Tuesday unveiled the new BPL bookmobile at the Central Library, 2100 Park Place in downtown Birmingham.

The vehicle offers a variety of library services beyond having books and DVDs. Patrons will be able to take advantage of many services available in libraries across Birmingham – use computers, get access to free Wi-Fi, and obtain services such as notarizing, fax and printing. In addition, BPL Mobile will take programs on the road such as library story times and STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) activities.

The project was made possible by a donation of a paratransit bus from the Birmingham Jefferson County Transit Authority  (BJCTA) and a partnership with a local developer, Ed Ticheli (American Life Lofts), in addition to support from other local partners including Opportunity Alabama.

“This library on wheels will allow the Birmingham Public Library to continue putting people first by expanding our high-quality services and programs outside our physical walls to neighborhoods across Birmingham,” said Janine Langston, executive director of the Birmingham Public Library. “We appreciate the Birmingham Jefferson County Transit Authority for donating the decommissioned paratransit bus and Mr. Ed Ticheli for partnering with BPL to make this project possible.”

This is the first time BJCTA has donated one of its paratransit vehicles to BPL and the first such donation of its kind in BPL history.

For more than a century, bookmobiles have been a popular outreach method used by public libraries across the United States.

Bookmobiles are mobile libraries designed to carry books, DVDs and other libraries materials to neighborhoods throughout the cities they serve.  Merriam-Webster Dictionary describes bookmobiles as simply “a traveling library.” 

According to The News Wheel, bookmobiles got their start over a century ago when librarian Mary Titcomb used her horse-drawn library wagon to serve rural areas in Washington County, Maryland. The first motorized bookmobile began in 1912 and soon helped spread literature across the country.

The donated paratransit vehicle from BJCTA was fabricated into BPL’s first bookmobile in decades.  BPL’s Archives department has historic photos of a bookmobile, called the Birmingham Public Library Traveling Branch, from the 1950s that shows a line of children waiting to get books.

During this year’s American Library Association’s 2023 National Library Week, which is April 23-29National Library Outreach Day (formerly National Bookmobile Day) will be observed on Wednesday, April 26, as a day to celebrate library outreach and the dedicated library professionals who meet patrons where they are.

For additional information about the programs and services of the Birmingham Public Library, visit  www.cobpl.org  and follow Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and LinkedIn @BPL. The mission of Birmingham Public Library is to provide the highest quality experience to our community for lifelong learning, cultural enrichment and enjoyment. This system—with 18 locations and serving the community for over 130 years—is one of the largest library systems in the Southeast.