The bookmobile

Remember when I announced that I’m opening Nowhere Bookshop and I said that if it does well then I want to buy a bookmobile so that I can take it to book deserts and pick up authors and adoptable cats and do readings in fields?  That was all inspired by my bookmobile that came to our tiny town twice a month.  Walking from my house to the bookmobile is literally the first memory I have and I can still smell the inside of it and feel the giant book bags we’d stuff as full as we could and remember the excitement that came when we’d see it in our neighborhood.  The way I assume that city kids feel when they hear the ice cream truck is how I felt with that bookmobile.

My sister and I have searched for our old bookmobile but it disappeared a long time ago.  The last trace we could find was when it was loaned to the school after their library burned down, but after that the library decided it wouldn’t be replaced.  That was over a decade ago.  Then the trail went cold.

The day I published the post about the Nowhere Bookshop and the bookmobile my parents were driving through town and my mom was like, “TURN AROUND, I JUST SAW A GHOST.”

And it was.

Y’all.  It was our bookmobile. 

Hello, old friend.

Have you ever felt simultaneously ecstatic and terrifically sad all at the same time?

You look like you’ve been through a lot. I guess we all have.

It’s in terrible shape.  It’s over 50 years old.  It’s gutted on the inside.  But I still wanted it even though I have no place to put it and no money to restore it and I need to be focused on starting the bookstore first.  But the heart wants what it wants and I wanted to save my first real friend.

My dad did some snooping and found out that The San Angelo Museum of Fine Art owns it now.  (The same one I worked at in college, which just shows you how small our little part of Texas is.)  They considered my offer to take it off their hands but they want to rebuild it and use it the way it once was.  And I was disappointed, but honestly also relieved because it probably belongs there, with people who can love it and bring it back to its former glory.

And they said that if they don’t end up restoring it I will be first on their list to have it, and that’s really nice.  Either way, it’s found and it’s not being cannibalized for parts.  And no matter what, it’s going nowhere.

PS.  We still don’t know where Nowhere will end up but we have a good lead on a San Antonio location but it needs a lot of work so keep all your fingers crossed.

148 thoughts on “The bookmobile

Read comments below or add one.

  1. OOOH BOOKMOBILE DRIVER is the dream job I never knew I wanted until JUST NOW. <3 If you get it can I PLEASE be your driver? Will work for food.

  2. Oh Jenny! You just brought a flood of memories my way! My small town also had a bookmobile, but ours was brown with yellow lettering. It would come once a week because our small elementary school didn’t have a library. The fondness I had for that weekly visit! Thank you!

  3. Have you ever read Audrey Niffenegger’s “The Night Book Mobile”? Do it, it’s weird and sad and happy and about the love for books.

    (Putting it on my list. ~ Jenny)

  4. I can’t even begin to tell you how much I LOVE this!!! I grew up in what used to be a small town, and have fond memories of my mom taking me to the bookmobile every week. I even remember the driver’s name, Bill, and can picture his face now almost 40 years later. I probably wore out the only copies they had of Mercer Mayer’s Little Monster’s Bedtime Stories, and The Littlest Rabbit, because I checked them out over and over. But the bookmobile is how I came to love reading, and I will always consider it my first library. <3 <3 <3

  5. I remember when Dallas has a bookmobile for the northern part of the city, before they built the branch library up there.

    You’re from San Angelo? And went to ASU? I knew I liked you! 🙂

  6. Fingers crossed!! Small towns need libraries! Or a bookstore. I live in a mall town and we actually have a small library…so proud that we are able to sleep it going.

  7. Oh, I hope it gets loved back to life by the Museum or by you. Either way, it’s a win.

  8. It is truly magical when the things we loved as children reappear in our lives. I do hope the bookmobile lives again! My library was five miles away from my house, so I had to have a ride there. No bookmobile in my community. BUT, my mom would sometimes drop me off on a Saturday and pick me up in the evening. All day library? Yes, please!

  9. That’s such an awesome and sad and cool story. Our county (which includes Madison WI) has a bookmobile that travels around to Madison neighborhoods as well as smaller towns in the outlying areas of the county. It’s a great service to have.

  10. I, too, fondly remember the Bookmobile from my childhood in rural Maryland! Books were and still are treasures! (As are YOU!!!!) <3

  11. I grew up in a village and we had a mobile library – common in the UK and I loved visiting it. It would come to our primary school for us to take out books as the school didn’t have a big library.

  12. And they said that if they don’t end up restoring it I will be first on their list to have it, and that’s really nice. Either way, it’s found and it’s not being cannibalized for parts. And no matter what, it’s going nowhere.

    And no matter what, it’s going nowhere.

    Going Nowhere.

    I SO hope that ends up being a prophetic slip of the tongue and you DO end up with it at Nowhere Bookshop & Bookmobile.

  13. I actually cried reading this! I never had a bookmobile and the thought of that makes my heart sing! Maybe I’ve found my calling. I’m almost 50 and still don’t know what I want to do with my life! <3 <3

  14. Books have always been my friends. We never had a bookmobile,but we did( it still stands in all it’s wonderful bookness wonder!) In the town I survived from. That library was my first shelter from the storm as it was. There is NOTHING like the smell and feel of a book,not to mention ” Oh the places you’ll go” Dr Suess.Go Nowhere go!

  15. If they change their mind and you get to buy it, please crowdsource funding. I’d be happy to donate. Book deserts suck!

  16. Why do I want to sketch an image of Rey contentedly reading in your old Bookmobile after scavenging for parts?

  17. YES, bookmobiles exist outside of small towns. Topeka, KS for example. Check this out (pun intended) and see if you catch all the Taylor Swift references. Plus, the Love Garden t-shirt references a record store in nearby Lawrence, KS that has a couple cats on staff! Sure hope this link works…

  18. Have you ever read “Big Stone Gap?” This story reminds me of it. I’m so happy the bookmobile isn’t going for parts and fingers crossed for the Nowhere location!!

  19. Someone from this weird wonderful tribe needs to write this story. It will be amazing. ❤️❤️❤️

  20. How on earth does a picture of a bus make me cry? And then how does crying turn immediately into a fantasy a la the Postman where I’m the mythical savior of a future dystopia with my goat drawn Bookmobile? Somebody with talent please write this for me.

  21. Great memories here, too. Anybody who loves books probably loved the bookmobile!
    Have you thought about buying an RV and setting it up like a bookmobile?? You could follow your favorite food trucks around and always be assured of good food. And just think of the captive audience you would have when people are done eating. Of course, you’d want to hand out hand wipes as they came in….hmmmm…..that might be fun!!

  22. I grew up going to the book mobile, too, which, oddly, used to park about 3 blocks over from the library. It was…confusing, but I loved it. Like, why did they park it so close to the actual, physical library? But it was stocked with books and I was an inhaler of books back then, so more books = happy, happy me.

  23. my little elementary school in my hometown got a visit from the bookmobile every month and 7 year old me was OBSESSED with it.Once I discovered the driver didn’t actually own it and get to live in it some of the thrill was gone, but on the rare occasion I see it parked in the library garage much-older-than-7 year old me still gets butterflies.whether your old bookmobile actually becomes yours or not, I hope it gets a second chance to bring joy

  24. I also lived in the sticks in Texas and the bookmobile was a wonderful childhood memory for me too – particularly the summer when there was no school. I read so many great books!

  25. Did you mean to make that joke? “It’s going nowhere.” I have a feeling that it will, indeed, be yours someday after Nowhere has become wildly successful.

    (I did. 🙂 ~ Jenny)

  26. I share your fondness for things like this; imagine what YOUR bookmobile will inspire kids to do?

  27. I would have wanted it SO bad, but probably a blessing in disguise that you weren’t able to nab it just yet. The bookstore itself is going to be such a big undertaking, I would be afraid to have anything take the focus off that! Maybe someday, though! There’s always tomorrow, right? 🙂

  28. Oh the memories come flooding back. I loved when my Mom would walk me to the bookmobile. I remember almost crying with happiness when Mom signed the slip giving me permission to borrow books on the 12 to 14 year old shelves. I was eight. Wonderful memories.

  29. What if you used it as a wine-bar on wheels to serve wine to readers at your books shop? Just park your car, buy a glass of Rose, and snuggle up with your favorite book!

  30. We didn’t have a bookmobile, but we had an annual book fair at my grammar school. I wish I could say that this is where my love of reading began, but more often than not, I bought books about movie monsters that were 95% photos and illustrations. (I always read the captions beneath the pictures, though. And I can identify monsters by name like a mofo!)

  31. I, too, have fond memories of our local bookmobile. It was in the parking lot of a local shopping center. Every time I went I checked out Green Eggs and Ham, but my mother insisted I get something else as well. Thanks for the memories!

  32. I still remember the first book I ever read all by myself. It was Go Dog Go and I got it from the bookmobile that stopped near our house every other Saturday. One of my fondest memories.

  33. Yay! I used to work on a bookmobile and loved it so much. My dream job is to ride around the countryside in a bookmobile, with maybe a bar on the side. Love your bookmobile – it will be a fantastic adjunct to the store, although bookmobile’s notoriously require a lot of upkeep.

  34. I heart my book mobile memories, too. For me it was the love of books coupled with the air conditioning I’d feel as I entered the sacred space, not having AC in my own childhood home in Austin, TX in the 60’s. Good stuff all around.

  35. That is some synchronistic shit and obviously the universe is super on board with your bookstore, like a kiss on the cheek from a tiny fairy that smells like old book covers and musty sunshine, and that is frickin awesome

  36. We had a book mobile that would come to my far-flung neighbourhood once a week. It couldn’t hold all that many books, but the older gentleman who drove it knew my tastes and would bring books for me that he thought I would like. I know this meant he had to purposely do the work to seek that book and get it assigned to the bookmobile – I’m sure it took some time and effort. Anyway, I think this was my first experience finding a caring adult who wasn’t related to me. It was the first time an adult really “saw” me and respected me for exactly who I was. I’m sure he’s gone now, but I hope somehow he knew that I appreciated that and that I’d remember him forever. He’s also the one that taught me that the book is always better than the movie. I have that written on a tea cup now.

    (I love this. ~ Jenny)

  37. So cool! I also started my library reading love in a bookmobile. It came to the the church parking lot of our little country church, about a mile and a half from our farm. Mom would say, “The bookmobile is coming today,” and I’d get all excited. Sweet memories.

  38. I remember the bookmobile coming to our house when I was three or four. Then it stopped and we had to go to the library building. Where they did have a nice children’s librarian, but the building wasn’t on wheels, which makes a library way cooler.

  39. YouTube and Instagram are full of “watch me gut and renovate this old RV with all the shiplap” accounts.
    Which I know because I live in an RV.
    And did not set up a “watch me gut and renovate this old RV with all the shiplap” account.

    Anyway, those are the people you need for the bookmobile reno, should that become your thing instead of the museum’s thing.

  40. Is there a kickstarter for this? I could donate a few dollars to help restore it! Bookmobiles win!

  41. Wow, Jenny. Isn’t life strange? You were thinking of your book mobile from long ago, and then your parents see it. I hope it gets refurbished one way or another. Online books will never take the place of a real book. 📚❤️

  42. I understand your disappointment, but wouldn’t it be wonderful if they put it back to work bringing books to kids who don’t have them? Let’s hope they do!

  43. I’m sad and happy too. I wanted it to be out nowhere book mobile but also I think it should be there for all the kids in the area who need a good book. I want other kids to have the chance you had but I’m also selfish and kinda want you to have your first friend back. I can’t wait to see the book store when it opens and I hope you have a section for wtf is that stuff.

  44. OMG. I want to move to Texas and work for you! Would you have nap modules? And puppies? But I’m allergic to cats. whaa woh. (how do spell that sound for Debbie Downer?) Mazel on finding your first friend! You made my week with that story!

  45. Wow, Jenny. I hope you and Victor, and Hailey, end up with the bookmobile. I am just imagining you all in it with a few taxidermied animals and friends. Plus the books of course.

  46. LeAnn Woodward if you ever see this please start a bookmobile and live the best life ever. I mean hello books all the time yes please

  47. My heart leapt when I saw your picture. I also have very good memories of our bookmobile in Illinois. Maybe now that the museum knows there interest,things will get rolling. Pun intended! Good luck with the dream.

  48. It’s clearly a sign. I’ve always wanted to open a bookmobile and hit the farmers’ markets/tourist spots like a rogue food truck but for your brain. Brainmobile. Hmm, That name needs work.

  49. A photo of it over the front door would be nice. Or a wall mural. That would be cool.

  50. I felt the same way about the RIF bus that came through once every week or so. Some of my dearest and favorite book friends came from that RIF bus- friends that swept me away (at least a bit) from a pretty rotten kidhood.

  51. We had a bookmobile that came around on Thursdays. 2pm to 8pm. It was part of the city public library system. As a child, they only allowed me 10 books. Every Thursday I would go there after school and pick up my 10 books. Then I would go home and read as many as I could before 730pm so I could get back down there and exchange them.

    I am still a big fan of libraries.

  52. You said the place your bookstore might end up needs a lot of work – I hope you know that SO MANY OF US would show up to help with that!! <3

    (I love you guys. ~ Jenny)

  53. Came here because I have a Google alert for “bookmobiles”

  54. Came here because I have a Google alert for “bookmobiles”

  55. I wish you could buy it and call it “Here & Now,” which would be the perfect accompaniment to Now (&) here!

  56. What a great story! No matter what happens with the Book Mobile, this is a great story that should be given a place of honor on the walls of Nowhere! Maybe the store can help the Art Institute raise money for the Book Mobile’s restoration and eventual return to service. If anyone can get that puppy up and out into the public eye it’s you, Jenny!

  57. Oooooh the bookmobile was one of my first memories too. I loooved it. Ours was PINK! I kept checking out Charles Addams book, Dear Dead Days (which says a lot about how I turned out). I remember the librarian, the smell, and my glee as such a wee child seeing all those books. It was my happy place!

  58. This made me cry happy tears. I love my Bookmobile, too. I am so glad you’re is in good hands.

  59. I’ve seen it parked there! When I came across your blog and books I could hardly believe I was hearing about Wall!! Lol! My son is in high school, it hasn’t changed much! Thanks for your writing, I love it.

  60. I’ve seen it parked there! When I came across your blog and books I could hardly believe I was hearing about Wall!! Lol! My son is in high school, it hasn’t changed much! Thanks for your writing, I love it.

  61. Wow! If that isn’t the Universe being prompt, I don’t know what is. I am so glad this trusty ‘mobile has more than one good heart that wants to save it. Sounds like it may have a second life . . .

  62. Jenny, some of us who live in and around San Antonio will be willing to help you clean or get your bookstore ready!!! Just let us know how to best help. 😁

    (You are the best. I’ll keep you posted. ~ Jenny)

  63. When I was little, my hometown, Winnipeg, was about half a million people with about 6 neighbourhood libraries but my favourite wasn’t the school library – although I was always one of it’s most ardent volunteers – it was the monthly bookmobile! I loved it, the idea of it, everything! Heaven has always been books to me, analog or digital… and Jenny Lawson books hold very special places in my heart as I am someone who wears a silver ribbon in public as often as possible to remind everyone that I may be crazy but I’m not insane – I just have an illness that is invisible but can be just as deadly as cancer! Next month my ribbon will be teal for my PTSD. Thank you Jenny for being a beacon…

  64. Oh my Lord.

    I never used the bookmobile, I had access to the Goodfellow base library.

    However, Mrs. Speed was a member of my church and worked at the San Angelo Public Library downtown.

    The memories you are bringing back!

    (The first ticket I ever got was at Goodfellow. I spent so much time in their ceramic and printing building. ~ Jenny)

  65. Thank you for sharing this. I attended some of my 5th grade year at Grape Creek Elementary, and this bookmobile would come there too. It was so amazing. It’s how I found The Voyages of Doctor Doolittle. It was magical!

  66. Huh.

    Looks like my comment got eaten.

    Your journey brings back memories.

    I didn’t use the public library as I had access to the Goodfellow library, within walking distance.

    However, Mrs. Speed was one of the librarians at the downtown library and a member of my church. I think she drove the bookmobile now and again. This would have been in the early to late sixties.

  67. The bookmobile stopped at a certain corner near my house(had to walk up a hill and wait by the stop sign) It’s one of the first places–that and school–I was allowed to walk alone. I was 5. While not my first memory that stop sign and corner is still the bookmobile stop to me.

  68. Sorry – too much eye strain today to read all the comments (even at 200/%). sigh
    But – this is great! If the museum restores it then they have taken that financial burden off of you… and then have a potential partner for co-hosted events???
    And if they don’t restore it – you get first dibs. Even if you don’t restore it, you could creatively cannibalize it for signage or a display or seating nook or something once you find your physical home base.
    So many great options… and ways to turn that frown upside down. (‘Cause I agree – scary sad as well as amazing wow)

  69. Aw, I love that story. What a gem that old bookmobile is. I’d love to restore an oldie like that!

  70. I wish I’d had a book mobile when I was a kid! I loved going to the library and I’m sure a book mobile would have seemed enchanted and all kinds of wonderful.

  71. Oh, I sure hope they don’t repaint the thing. The paint looks like a buff job would bring it right back, and it would still have the vintage vibe. Spend money on windows, museum folks, and keep that awesome paint job!

  72. how wonderful, an old friend found!!! Imagine that on your front lawn with Beyonce LOL

  73. SUch good news, Jenny! Perhaps, in the future, your dream will come true. Fingers crossed.

  74. Thank you for posting this today. It reminded me of how important the establishment I work for is in people’s lives. I hope you get to show us pics of the restored bookmobile one day!

  75. Our bookmobile came to my school every week and would park in the playground. We got to go out and choose up to 7 books. I always took out 7. It was the best 30 minutes of the week, hands down.

  76. Love it! Talk about Karma! Good things are happening with more to come!
    Love ya girl!❤️

  77. The Seattle Public Library system still has bookmobiles. Come visit!

  78. It’s FANTASTIC!! Congrats!! Hoping you’ll come to Georgia!

  79. OMG you found your bookmobile! What are the odds?!?!?. We, too, had a bookmobile, which was part of the Multnomah County Library (Oregon) system. Pea soup green, and it parked in the Presbyterian Church lot two blocks from my house on Saturdays. Even though it was small, a bunch of us kids would always grab some books and sit on the floor looking through them. Must have driven the adults nuts having to step over us. Sadly, it went away, but for a good reason – a library building was built! Now I have to find out if they still exist elsewhere in the state.

  80. UPDATE
    Okay, as soon as I posted, I had to Google Multnomah County Library bookmobiles, which led me down a path to National Bookmobile Day – the Wednesday of National Library Week in April. Who knew (well, maybe librarians, but not me) Another holiday to celebrate!!

  81. My pal who is autistic and now retired was the bookmobile driver!! He loved that job and the people and the sharing of the books. He spread the love and it all came back to him, and he has such fond memories. What a neat find! I hope it becomes loved and cherished again, whoever gets it. <3

  82. Love this! I am a fan of bookmobile cozy mysteries especially ones with cats. Very niche😇 Laurie Cass had a neat 7 part Bookmobile Cat series with a tabby. And B.B. Cantwell has a 2 book Portland Bookmobile series with a Maine Coon. And yes if you get the bus, crowd fund and put the kitties on board.

  83. Oh the memories of the BookMobile in rural Colorado… <3
    I am so excited for the store. Good luck finding a location.

  84. and its Name could be The NOWHEREMOBILE. Seriously, if you crowdsource for this, I will donate! You could do so many wonderful things with NOWHEREMOBILE. Zhe could be a focal point for pet adoption events, wine tastings, concerts, and of course, Books!

  85. My mother was a regular at her bookmobile well into her eighties.
    Thanks for the memory.

  86. My Mom was pregnant with me when she worked on the Bookmobile in our mid-size industrial town. By the time I was 7, I would sit on the front porch waiting every other Friday at 9 am in the summer to see it pull up a block away. Since the driver and librarian knew my Mom they would let me get 4 books on my card (the limit for children) and 8 books with my Mom’s card (the limit for adults) and those 12 books still did not last me until the next visit! All of my kids got their first library card at the bookmobile as well!

  87. If you get so attached to your library, you must read ” The little Paris Bookshop” by Nina George.
    It’s so wonderful, it tops my top 10 list….Libraries are wonderful places!

  88. I lived in the middle of nowhere, and LOVED it when the bookmobile would pull into my driveway as a kid. They never let me checkout as many books as I wanted – until they figured out I was an avid & fast reader.

  89. Fingers crossed that it will be returned to its former glory. Is there anything more wonderful than books? I’m fortunate enough to have a WONDERFUL library that I frequent at least weekly. In fact. I was there today!

  90. I dont believe I happened across this blog by accident. I too love the bookmobile from my elementary school years. Always so excited when it came. Fast forward 4 plus decades, and I have undertaken the task of putting a bookmobile back into the community very soon. Purchased an old handicap school bus currently being transformed to delivery books, hope and love into the communities it will serve.
    Best of luck to you!

  91. I just noticed your “Things I Love Today” and wanted to let you know that my two sons, who are 11 and 13, bought those socks for me for my birthday last year. Best. Gift. Ever. My husband is pretty okay too, because he has bought your books for me.

  92. I remember the bookmobile, the fruit truck (he was really the ‘watermelon man’ who had thee best cherries, pomegranates and strawberries), my mother wouldnt let us near the swim mobile. But we did have a milkman for a while. Its so grear to see the bookmobile. It is bittersweet.

  93. We had a Bookmobile in our town when I was growing up. i thought it was better than the Ice Cream Man.

  94. I still remember walking up the steps to our bookmobile in the parking lot of a church in our little MO town. I swear it was almost the same color of yours and the same smell…of books and adventure and comfort!!!

  95. I lived for about 9 months in San Angelo, but never knew there was a museum there….perhaps it came along with the Olive Garden after I left? So glad you found your old friend!

  96. I attribute my love of reading to the bookmobile that visited the Colorado apartments in Austin every week for the three years my family lived there. That apartment complex was (and is) part of UT Austin’s married student housing, so being part of that academic-minded community AND having the bookmobile visit weekly was transformative.

    I still remember how it smelled — sort of a “book concentrate.”

  97. Ah, memories! When I was a little girl, we lived for a few years in the tiny town of Zuni, New Mexico (right near the Zuni Pueblo, on the Reservation). There was a school library (where I first read “Charlotte’s Web”) and my mother kindly let me buy anything I wanted from the Scholastic Books catalog because there were no bookstores, but every so often the Bookmobile would come in… I still remember some of the books I read there and would love to find again…

  98. My sister drives the local bookmobile and she loves it! It has made such an impact on the kiddos lives. This is amazing! Glad it’s not being gutted!

  99. I drove the bookmobile for Northfield Public Library for 4 years, serving towns in our county that didn’t have a library and day cares, etc. The bookmobile was named Booker, but the kids all seemed to assume that the bus’s name was mine, so I was called Booker by pretty much all the kids who came to the bookmobile. Some even called me, Booker Bus, lol. I cried for two straight days when I left that job.

  100. I’m not sure if it’s been suggested, but here’s my take: do a book truck, kinda like a food truck is to a restaurant like a book truck is to a book store. (And I thought I’d never use that stuff I learned for the ACTs.) Anyway, you run the book truck for a while, hopefully making lots of money, so that you can afford a bigger, better store down the line!!

  101. Honestly, there aren’t enough bookstores in the world. I’m so happy you are planning one. This post made me think fondly of my hometown’s old bookmobile (Nashua, NH) and I wonder if it’s still around…

  102. Frankly my dear, given the vehicles advanced age from the one photo it is doing rather well, as historical vehicles go.

  103. You can build a replica as part of your book shop, like a reading nook

  104. One of my first really good memories is going to the library with my dad on Saturday mornings, trading in my old, read books for new shiny unread (by me) books! It was exhilarating.

  105. Ohhhhh! The Bookmobile!! It came to our school which was out in the country and THAT day was a super exciting day!!

  106. I found the museum on Facebook… It’s an incredibly interesting organization that I wish I lived nearer. If one of you locals posts to their page and gets them to start a crowdsourcing campaign for the restoration, I’d contribute even though I’m a thousand miles away. We couldn’t save our local branch library…but maybe I could help save your bookmobile.

  107. As a librarian, I have been advocating for a bookmobile ice cream truck for YEARS, but my boss always things I’m kidding. I am not.

  108. Everything on the internet is making me tear up tonight. I probably need more sleep. I so hope this comes back to life under their or your care.

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