The bookmobile of Delta Sigma Theta, circa 1956.
If African-Americans had any library service in the Jim Crow South, it was either in a
separate reading room at the library, or more often, at a completely separate
branch. These “colored” libraries inevitably were inferior, underfunded and
often given books the white libraries no longer wanted. African-Americans
frequently took it upon themselves to organize libraries of their own, the
stacks often housed in schools and churches. Blacks using segregated services
were the lucky ones; a 1954 study revealed two thirds of southern
African-Americans had no access to libraries at all.
The most ambitious book program to overcome racial barriers was the National Library Project organized by the black sorority Delta Sigma Theta, launched in 1945. Each
Delta chapter purchased 10 books at $2.50 a piece, with the Grand Chapter paying
for the portable book baskets that would be taken to the various deposit stations. Franklin County, North Carolina was the first site of these unique traveling libraries. Each school in the county was allowed one book basket, a teacher at each school appointed to look after the collection. The sorority continued to build other traveling libraries, mostly in western Georgia where the library needs of African-Americans were most underserved. The program inspired the citizens of Louisburg (in Franklin County) to build what would eventually be called the Delta Sigma Theta Public Library , to which the sorority donated $500. The national chapter also purchased a bookmobile, stocked with $3,000 worth of books, to serve African-Americans in Carroll County, Georgia, driven by librarian Leroy Childs.
In Search of Sisterhood; Delta Sigma Theta and the Challenge of the Black Sorority Movement. Giddings, Paula. William Morrow and Company Inc., New York. 1988.