The Streetcar Library of Edmonton


The streetcar library of Edmonton, Canada.

One of the more unique ways to distribute library books came by way of streetcar in Edmonton, starting in 1941. At the time, Edmonton had 91,000 people spread out over 27,000 acres. The Alberta city also had an excellent system of electric streetcars that reached every part of town. The Edmonton Public Library compared costs and found that converting a used streetcar would actually be cheaper than purchasing a bookmobile. The Edmonton Street Railway Department renovated a retired car with over 30 years of service, and the library-on-rails soon took to the streets with about 1,500 books. It was an instant hit. In its first month of service the bookmobile-car had only two stops per week, each lasting six hours. At each visit it became so mobbed with children that schools arranged times for different grades to take their turns. After its first week the library added two more staff members and lengthened the times of each stop.  The Edmonton Public Library would later add two regular bookmobiles to its services. All three vehicles were retired in 1956, replaced with standard trucks.

Check out the link below to see an actual film of the streetcar library in action:


Brown, Jack E. “Edmonton’s Street Car Library.” The Library Journal. January 15 (1942): 62-64.

Edmonton Public Library, “Infofile Detail – Edmonton Public Library – Street Car.” Accessed March 24, 2013. Public Library – Street Car.

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