Travelling branches of public libraries have existed since at least 1905, when Mary Titcomb, a Maryland librarian, used a horse-drawn wagon as a library on wheels. The coinage of the word bookmobile to refer to these mobile libraries, however, is a later development. OED editors are in the process of revising the dictionary’s entry for bookmobile. The earliest evidence found so far indicates that the word was first used in Oregon in the early 1920s:
1924 Bakersfield Californian 5 July 6/7 A smaller book wagon has served the county [sc. Multnoma County, Oregon] for several years… Miss Mulheron expresses herself as being greatly pleased with the appearance and performance of the new Graham Brothers ‘Bookmobile’.
Antique bookmobile from New Bedford, MA by Muffet, on Flickr
Was the word bookmobile coined in Oregon, or was it used earlier by libraries elsewhere? Local library records might hold evidence that could uncover the full story of the word’s origins.
Posted by OED_Editor on 23 January 2013 15.36