A history of bookmobiles in Canada

When bookmobiles made their Canadian debut in the 1930s, they were made from converted trucks and busses and ran off an honour system. With the expectation that when the bookmobile returned, you’d bring the book back to exchange for a new one.

The rise and fall of Canada’s original bookmobiles

The movement spread across the nation, starting in the 1930s with the Carnegie Corporation sponsoring a bookmobile in British Columbia to service 44,000 patrons along the Fraser Valley and later expanding their service across the country. Acadia University opened two of its own bookmobiles to service 850 patrons in Nova Scotia, New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island. Edmonton, Alberta joined in on the trend in 1941 by introducing their book Streetcar, and Saskatchewan soon followed in 1945 with their bookmobile service.

The McLennan Travelling Library was founded in 1951 by McGill University, the library serviced Newfoundland and western Canada by sending boxes of 30 books to small towns. The residents of those towns would pass the books around before the box was picked up and replaced by a box of 30 new books, because the books were passed around by the community members, there was no way to keep track of which books made it back to the library in Quebec.

By the end of the ‘50s, every Canadian province had a bookmobile on the roads. The ’60s and early ‘70s are considered the Golden Age or the “Heyday of bookmobiles” still using the honour system to bring library access to every Canadian citizen, but the late ‘70s and ‘80s saw the number of bookmobiles dropped substantially due to decreased funding, and more brick-and-mortar libraries popping up. By the 90s, most libraries had replaced their bookmobiles with other outreach services such as providing braille and audiobooks for the visually impaired.

Mobile libraries are coming back
In recent years, bookmobiles have started to make a comeback. As our classic brick-and-mortar libraries evolve to match the current demands and needs of communities for touchless, and quick solutions, bookmobiles are evolving too. So, how can you add the technology of today into a small space and still have room for all the books?

Most checkout stations are big and bulky, need regular on-site maintenance, and are tied to a singular location, on the flip side, the Meescan kiosk is small, lightweight and needs zero on-site maintenance. We use a Bluetooth beacon to allow customers to access your mobile library via the Meescan mobile app, so you don’t even need a kiosk, and our On-The-Go license saves you money, making Meescan a great solution for your bookmobile.

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