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A library on wheels is hitting New York City streets

Written by
Deme Walls

Never make it to the library to check out a book or always forgetting to return the one you just finished? Now there might be an easier way for you to take advantage of all the resources at the New York Public Library than schlepping to your local branch.

NYPL is rolling out three bright red bookmobiles to travel the streets of New York City. It will serve residents in the Bronx, Manhattan and Staten Island. It’s the first library on wheels to serve the public in decades.

Here are some photos of the early “book wagons” in NYC.

Readers choosing books and checking them out, ca. 1920s.
Manuscripts and Archives Division/The New York Public Library
Book truck at 40th street entrance of NYPL Central building, ca. 1930s, showing it open for display.
Manuscripts and Archives Division/The New York Public Library
Bookmobile, Bronx, 1950s.
New York Public Library Archives/The New York Public Library

The new traveling libraries will be staffed with two library employees and can hold up to 1,000 books for all ages. You’ll be able to flip through the books curbside, check out a book to take home, return books, renew books or even sign up for a library card.

NYPL hopes the bookmobiles will provide supplemental service to areas of the city where some branches are temporarily closed. The Grand Concourse Library in the Bronx is currently closed for renovations, so the Bronx bookmobile will start driving the streets in June to serve residents of that area. The Staten Island and Manhattan traveling libraries will start in the fall.

You might also see the bookmobile at local community centers. Follow each bookmobile's route on the NYPL website or social media accounts. Happy reading!

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