The First Online Bookmobile


Katherine Phenix and Penny Hall check out their bookmobile’s online catalog.


In July of 1985, the city of Westminster, CO, became the first in the country to have a bookmobile with an online computer (Westminster also has the distinction of being the first city to issue its police cars “lap computers”, in 1985). This being the 80s, there was no internet as such, but the librarian could access the library’s mainframe from the bookmobile itself. This gave bookmobile patrons the ability to instantly access the library’s electronic catalog remotely. The information traveled via radio frequency by means of an antennae that was connected to the bookmobile’s computer modem. The information went from the bookmobile to another receiver attached to the city’s municipal building. This “data radio” was paid for with a grant of 11,702 from the Library Services and Construction Act Title 1. Because it traveled by radio, the library needed FCC approval to get its own frequency. As the library stated in its press release, “Taking the bookmobile out of the dark ages of non-instantaneous information…brings information to typical bookmobile patrons, like the elderly and handicapped.” This statement was well ahead of it’s time.

Petterson, Marylin. “Bookmobile Tie-in First in County.” Westminster Window, July 18th, 1985.

“Bookmobile Claims a First in Online Mobility.” American Libraries, September 1985 Pg. 534.

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