An Amerika-Haus bookmobile makes its way into a German village.
During The War, the U.S. built several temporary libraries overseas to both educate and entertain its millions of soldiers abroad. These would evolve into U.S. Information Centers. The purpose of the Centers was “to promote the realization of United States foreign policy objectives and increased understanding of American life.” In Germany, each Center would eventually be known as an “Amerika-Haus.”
The first Amerika-Haus went up in 1946 in Frankfurt; by 1951 there were 27, mostly in the American Zone of occupation. These unique libraries offered books, records, showed films and organized lectures, among other activities. There was a geographical limitation, since the Amerikahäuser were primarily only in the bigger cities. So in 1952 the U.S. Information Service received its first bookmobiles; by 1957, 22 rolled across the German countryside. While it’s true that initially 90% of the books were in English, in ten years time most of the titles were American works translated into German. The Autobücherei also brought along plenty of records, and language was no barrier to jazz and “cowboy music” (Country-Western). Frequently, the trucks toted projectors and films to be shown in numerous German hamlets. While some have criticized the Amerika-Haus program as an outlet for U.S. propaganda, the bookmobiles were overwhelmingly popular with the German people. As one German newspaper reported, “Die Autobücherei ist überall Wilkommen (The bookmobile is welcome everywhere).” Indeed, the most common complaint from the German citizenry was that they didn’t come enough.
McIntosh, James C. . “Operation Bookmobile in Germany.” Wilson Library Bulletin. May 1957: 719-723.