Road to Reading: Fairfax County’s Bookmobile

Road to Reading: Fairfax County's BookmobileRoad to Reading: Fairfax County's Bookmobile

It’s laborious in the present day to think about Fairfax County with out libraries. Last 12 months alone individuals checked out greater than 11 million gadgets from the library system’s 23 branches. But earlier than 1940, the county didn’t have a library, an idea that Chris Barbuschak, who manages the library’s historic assortment, the Virginia Room, calls “mind-boggling.”

Herndon Route, circa 1940 (Courtesy Fairfax County Public Library)

County supervisors permitted funding for the primary library in 1939, however that $250 wasn’t sufficient. The federal Works Progress Administration stepped in with funding and loaned Fairfax a bookmobile. The darkish blue, transformed 1-ton 1939 Chevrolet Suburban panel truck stuffed with books began Fairfax County on its street to studying on July 30, 1940.

Herndon Route, circa 1940. (Courtesy Fairfax County Public Library)

A librarian saved monitor of all the things, from the county’s bumpy street situations to the neighborhood’s response. “At first there was a bit of little bit of reluctance, like ‘Really, that is free? We can take a look at books.’ But shortly, the neighborhood got here to embrace it,” says Barbuschak.

Oakton Route, Cardinal School cease at Maple Avenue and Oak Valley Drive, 1946. (Courtesy Fairfax County Public Library)

Newspapers printed the bookmobile’s schedule. It had a number of routes and stopped at completely different places every week, together with deposit stations at personal properties, shops, and county faculties.

Circa Forties (Courtesy Fairfax County Public Library)

Residents welcomed the truck that held 800 books rain or shine. The county saved it in a 24-by-24-foot cinderblock constructing behind the courthouse. That would function the headquarters for the Fairfax County Public Library and its employees for a decade.

Courtesy Fairfax County Public Library/1941

With World War II underway, the primary librarian, John Mehler, went off to struggle, and Dorothea Asher took over as library director from 1940 to 1942. Above, she is seen with John Bethune, library board chairman, explaining the bookmobile’s providers to U.S. Army Director of Recreation and Publicity Maj. W. A. Hitchcock at Ft. Belvoir.

Courtesy Fairfax County Public Library/1944

When the WPA led to 1943, the county took over paying the library employees. In 1945, it purchased the bookmobile for $250. That 12 months, it was featured in a 20-minute documentary, Library of Congress, that may be nominated for an Academy Award. Here, driver Henry Ambler is seen above with FCPL’s fourth library director, Margaret Edwards (heart), and a library patron on the Shady Oak Store at 228 Walker Rd., Great Falls. Today, the shop is a house.

Feature picture of the bookmobile courtesy Fairfax County Public Library

This story initially ran in our July concern. For extra tales like this, subscribe to Northern Virginia Magazine.

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