December 1968: Taking a ride on the bookmobile

Posted 12/7/18

A first-person account of traveling around Walker County on the Carl Elliott Regional Library's bookmobile appeared in the Dec. 4, 1968, edition of the Daily Mountain Eagle.The unnamed author, …

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December 1968: Taking a ride on the bookmobile


A first-person account of traveling around Walker County on the Carl Elliott Regional Library's bookmobile appeared in the Dec. 4, 1968, edition of the Daily Mountain Eagle.

The unnamed author, presumably a member of the Eagle staff, accompanied Mrs. Elbert (Willa Dean) Daniel and Mrs. Tommie Cordell. Daniel, who would later become library administrator, was then serving as bookmobile librarian. Cordell was a clerk and the driver for the day.

The trio packed up 4,000 books and headed out for their first stop, Dora Elementary.

The bookmobile frequented area schools, only eight of which had their own libraries at the time. Some of those that did exist weren't in the best condition.

The article described Dora's library as a "small, pitiful-looking library" just off the auditorium.

"Principal Sartin said all he could say is 'it's better than nothing.' He warned me not to fall through the floor. Besides a scattering of books, the library contained a case of Pepsi colas and a horse whip hanging on the wall," the author wrote.

A new school must have been under construction at the time because Sartin said the rundown condition of the school would not be a worry after January.

Sartin said that a shortage of books was the biggest problem facing Walker County schools, and he expressed appreciation for the service provided by the bookmobile. 

School librarian Charlotte Williams said she got most of the books for her students from the bookmobile.

Elizabeth Whalen, who worked in the lunchroom, came to search for book for her son. Whalen mentioned that the bookmobile had stopped at her home several years prior after she had been injured in a car accident and could not work. "If it hadn't, I don't know what I'd have done," she said.

The next stop was Dora First Methodist Church, where a retired teacher introduced as Mrs. Grant checked out a book by Agnes Turnbull. 

The group then moved on to T.S. Boyd school. In contrast to Dora Elementary, the school had a large library with shelves packed with books. It was one of the best libraries in the county, according to Daniel. 

Unfortunately, it was not being used.

The principal, Mr. Burk, said the library hadn't been used since the first of the year because the librarian had fallen ill and a replacement couldn't be found.

"We have the books, but no one to issue them," Burk said.

The next stop was the residence of Jack Jolly, where Mrs. Upton, Mrs. Jolly and Mrs, Jolly's mother, Mrs. Handley, made their selections. Then the bookmobile moved on to the Bible Church of God, the home of Mrs. Pifer in Flat Creek, Walden's Grocery in Copeland's Ferry and Cordova.

Daniel said she would like to schedule some all-day stops in order to reach more people.

She also expressed a willingness to accommodate more individual stops into the schedule.

"A lot of people think we're only connected with the schools and don't know that we stop at churches, homes and grocery stores. I wish we could reach those people who read but don't know of the opportunity to use the bookmobile," Daniel said.

According to the article, an average of 1,500 books were checked in and out from the bookmobile on a given day.

Most of the patrons were housewives and children.

The bookmobile received a warm welcome wherever it appeared. "Before the day was over, it appeared that most of the people wait and look for the rolling library like they once looked for the country rolling stores. They gather, laughing and talking. The under-school-age children are always pleased. Even the neighborhood dogs gather about the bookmobile," the author wrote.