Bookmobiles and direct-delivery outreach services are, and continue to be an integral, vital part of libraries around the country. For over 100 years bookmobiles have served rural, urban, suburban and tribal areas, bringing access to information and life-long learning resources to all classes and communities. Bookmobiles are a central part of library service, and the ALA, through its Subcommittee on Bookmobiles, is firmly committed to recognizing their contribution to public life with the goal to highlight their value and extend their reach.
According to the most currently available report from the Institute of Museum and Library Services, about six percent of public libraries had one or more bookmobile outlets, with a total of 659 bookmobiles delivering library services in the U.S.
Bookmobiles, in use in the United States since 1905, are just one form of mobile delivery of library services. The former IFLA Mobile Libraries Section, now part of the Public Libraries Section, investigated delivery services around the world. In a survey conducted in in 1999-2001 they offered the following options for delivery: Bicycle, Wagon, Donkey Cart, Camel, Motorbike, Boat, Helicopter, Train, and the more usual bookmobiles in the form of special trucks, vans or mini-buses.
The first bookmobile was a horse-drawn buggy at the Hagerstown (Md.) Public Library, now part of the Washington County Free Library, in 1905. Another form of outreach to areas, particularly rural areas, without library service were traveling libraries.
For an answer to "Is physical accessibility required?", see the ADA Guide for Small Towns from the Department of Justice, which states: "If a library facility or building is not accessible, these services may be offered in a different accessible library facility, in another accessible facility nearby, or in an alternate manner." There are newer, larger bookmobiles that are already compliant with the ADA requirements and include lifts for disabled patrons.