When the new county library opened recently in Topanga, the canyon's first, it spelled the end to another institution in the communities at the far end of the Santa Monica Mountains. The Las Virgenes bookmobile will make its final stop on Friday afternoon, at the city hall in tiny but wealthy Hidden Hills. The traveling library's demise will leave just four bookmobiles in the county system, and memories for generations of readers.
Bookmobiles first caught on in the United States around 1900, when a librarian in rural Maryland used horse-drawn wagons to expand local library service. After World War II, Congress began subsidizing them as a way to bring literacy to rural America. At their peak, some 2,000 were in use nationally. A bookmobile nicknamed “Little Toot” served children in the City of Los Angeles through the 1950s; by the 1960s, there were eight bookmobiles in the Los Angeles County fleet alone.
Since then, though, bookmobile use had gradually dwindled, largely due to rising gas prices, suburban development and the Internet. In 2008, according to the National Library Assn., only about 930 remained on the road nationally, including 69 in California.
More at the Zev Yaroslavsky website.