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Wednesday, April 13, 2005; Page C16

You Can't Judge a Book By the Buggy

• Imagine having to watch out for horse poop while checking a book out from the library.

That's what people in rural parts of the country had to do when the bookmobile came to town. The country's first bookmobile was started 100 years ago this week in Hagerstown, Maryland. It was the idea of librarian Mary Titcomb to put shelves on a horse-drawn buggy and send it to rural residents. It took the driver three days to make the 50-mile trip in Washington County.


Joshua Thomas, driver of the first bookmobile, visiting a home in Washington County, Maryland. (Washington County Free Library Via AP)

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"You sort of got your year's worth of books and returned them later in the year," said Jill Craig, a current Washington County librarian.

The horse-drawn bookmobile lasted only about five years before it was hit by a train. (The driver and horses were fine, but the buggy was destroyed.) It was replaced by a motorized buggy, sort of a 1910 version of a minivan.

Today there are more than 800 bookmobiles around the country. Mary Titcomb would be proud of how her idea has grown. "The book goes to the man, not waiting for the man to come to the book," she said in 1905.


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