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Tuscaloosa Area Virtual Museum

Bookmobile and Outreach Services

Outreach and Bookmobile Services

The library had a vision of county-wide service that was difficult to provide given the limited resources at its disposal.  One effort included the provision of sub-stations in the county.  During the WPA era several had been established and then abandoned.  In 1945, a sub-station was started in Brookwood with Miss Nora Freiley in charge.  These sub-stations would be serviced by a bookmobile. 

Unfortunately, the bookmobile which had been “on order” since 1945 was not purchased until the fall of 1947 with support from the Tuscaloosa Civitan Club.  The Alabama Public Library Service Division contributed $2,500 worth of books for use on the bookmobile.  It was used to provide adjunct service to outlying county schools.  In its first six months it made 56 stops per month with 3,000 books under the direction of Mary Guy, Bookmobile Librarian.

In the Tuscaloosa News, July 23, 1950, Barbara Davis, Tuscaloosa County Librarian, reported that 58 homes and stores are visited by the bookmobile once a month at which time the books left the preceding month for use in that community are exchanged for others.  Some of these book stations serve their community throughout the year, others were opened at the close of the school year when it was necessary to find a new place for the children’s books, previously available through the schools.

In the early 1950s the bookmobile was renovated by the County Board of Education but the need for a new vehicle was obvious.  The Tuscaloosa Civitan Club again raised money for a new bookmobile by sponsoring circus performances.  The new vehicle was ready to start its rounds in April, 1954.  The old bookmobile was put to use by the County Board of Education to serve the Negro population of the county.  A library center for this bookmobile was created in one of the building at Lock 11.

Unfortunately, by 1960 the County Board of Education was unable to provide funding for bookmobile service.  The Alabama Public Library Service demonstrated a bookmobile service on a regional basis but this service was not supported by Tuscaloosa County.  Without the financial support of the County, bookmobile service was discontinued in 1961. 

Increased funding for the library allowed for the resumption of bookmobile service.  In 1972, Mrs. Patricia Smith was the librarian of the bookmobile and Mrs. Nell Ables was the driver. By 1980 the costs of maintenance on the old 1972 vehicle was prohivitive and by 1983 it was no longer operable at all.

In 1995 bookmobile service resumed with Dawn Sheppard as Bookmobile Librarian and Mary Hartman as driver.  The schedule consists of 10 different routes, 5 days per week, covering about 150 miles throughout the county each week.

Books by Mail

In the 1970's a Books by Mail program was started to supplement the bookmobile program by reaching families in areas of scattered population where bookmobile stops were not economically feasible.  Catalogs of available books were prepared and mailed, then the book orders were filled and mailed as well. In 1975, Irene Redmond was in charge of this service.

Talking Books

Also in the 1970's a Talking Books program for the blind and physically handicapped was started.  In 1974, Mrs. Martha Williams, was the librarian in charge of this service which was housed in the old bookmobile which was parked next to the Friedman Library. 

By 1980, Tuscaloosa Public Library housed a Subregional Library for the Blind and Physically Handicapped which was part of a system centered in the National Library of Congress in Washington, D. C.  Mrs. Barbara Jordan was the coordinator of this service which provided books on tape, record or in Braille as well as the machines needed to listen to the books.

Bookmobile and Outreach Services