The Bookmobile: Delivering Library Magic

In today’s rapidly changing digital landscape, where anything you want to know is just a click away, there exists an enduring institution that brings the magic of books throughout the Gallatin Valley: the Bozeman Public Library Bookmobile. With its wheels turning and shelves stocked, the Bookmobile serves as an integral extension of the Bozeman Public Library.

The concept of the bookmobile dates back to the early 20th century when the Chautauqua movement in the United States sought to bring education and culture to rural areas. The first bookmobile, essentially a horse-drawn wagon filled with books, made its debut in 1905 in Washington County, Maryland. Since then, bookmobiles have evolved significantly.

Donations made it possible to purchase and equip the Bozeman Public Library’s Bookmobile in 2017 at a cost of $600,000. Since then, the Bookmobile has traveled more than 31,000 miles across the Gallatin Valley visiting preschools, rural neighborhoods, senior living facilities, schools, and community events. Your donations continue to support the Bookmobile today, covering the costs of fuel and vehicle maintenance as it serves more than 20,000 patrons each year.

Folks visiting the Bookmobile can get their library card; check out a book, movie, or other materials; place a library item on hold; and pick up their hold items. At select stops, the Mobile Services Librarians also lead programs, like the ones offered at the main Bozeman Public Library.

With regular stops every two weeks, the Bookmobile and its staff become part of the communities that they visit. “One teacher shared that she has to close the window blinds before we arrive. Otherwise, excited pandemonium erupts when the kids see the Bookmobile. There’s a magic to the bus that the kids see.” Jonathan Farrell, Mobile Services Assistant said.

Farrell went on to share that one of the favorite parts of his job is the connections that have been formed over the years. “I’ve seen kids go from being shy, hiding behind their parents at a neighborhood stop to now greeting me enthusiastically when we visit their school. The Bookmobile has become a fixture of their young lives and I’ve become a familiar face in their world. It’s really special.”

November blog

The Bookmobile also visits senior living communities, another highlight of Farrell’s day. Depending on the circumstances (snowy and icy conditions, known mobility issues of the stop’s patrons, etc.) they often bring the materials into the lobby for residents to peruse or pick up books on hold. “It’s such a treat to see them grinning from ear to ear when their books arrive. And without fail, every time, they express deep gratitude that their materials are being delivered to them,” stated Farrell.

The Bookmobile is a symbol of the enduring spirit of public libraries. It’s all about keeping that age-old library mission alive: giving everyone the chance to learn, discover, and expand their horizons. Thank you for helping the Bookmobile deliver knowledge, discovery, and magic to our community!