History of the Bookmobile


Did you know that in 1913 books were delivered to some residents of Monterey County on burros? We’ve come a long way with our delivery system since then.


The history of the Bookmobile service in the City of Monterey is integrally connected with the strength and political influence of Monterey neighborhoods. In addition to Monterey Public Library’s main facility in downtown Monterey, from 1931 to 1953 there existed a New Monterey branch library, on Laine Street. When the City Council proposed to close that branch in order to reduce costs in 1953, the proposal was received with letters of protest, petitions, and stormy public meetings. Nevertheless, it was finally decreed that the branch would close permanently on January 1, 1954. To make its decision more palatable to the angry citizens, the Council announced that a bookmobile would be purchased to provide library services to residents in the outlying areas of town, including those in New Monterey. Monterey’s first bookmobile went into service in 1956. The twenty-foot long bookmobile served elementary schools, convalescent homes, and outlying neighborhoods of Monterey.

bkm-4 In 1982, citing the prospect of someday having to replace the 26-year old vehicle and given a preference for reallocating the staff to the main library, it was decided to suspend bookmobile service. That decision, however, met with strong public opinion similar in size and intensity to the 1953 debate over the closure of the New Monterey Branch Library. After an extensive evaluation process and cost analysis in 1985, the City Council approved the expenditure of $92,000 for the purchase of a new Bookmobile. In July 1986, after a four-year hiatus, the Monterey Public Library Bookmobile was back on the road.

The second Bookmobile was a 24 foot Gerstenslager, affectionately called, “Gertie”. It served the community for twenty two years, making neighborhood stops, preschool and elementary school stops, stops at retirement communities, and at the Old Monterey Marketplace. It also participated in the 4th of July Parade and Lawn Party, and other community events.

bkm-5 When it was time for her to “go out to pasture”, Gertie was replaced in November, 2008, with the current vehicle, which is a 30-foot long Farber ELF (ELF being an acronym for Extra Low Floor), built on the back of a Ford 550 truck. This vehicle is a “green machine” using bio-diesel fuel. The lights and computers are powered by solar panels. The low floor feature and ramp make it possible for all customers to easily come on board, even those with walkers and wheelchairs. Free Internet access is also available to Bookmobile visitors.