Introducing Specs the Book Bike: Chronicle Books on Wheels
Hi everyone. We’d like you to meet Specs.
Specs, short for Spectacles, is our new book bike.
We knew we wanted to do something special for our 50th anniversary—in our early brainstorming, we had a vast list of “big ideas,” and one of them was to create some sort of bookmobile.
And now we have Specs.
Book bikes, bookmobiles, mobile libraries, etc., all have one goal in common: to bring the books to the people.
They aren’t a newfound trend, either. Iterations of bookmobiles have been around since the mid-to-late 1800s, like the horse-drawn Warrington Perambulating Library, pictured below—it was used in Britain back in 1858.
Warrington Perambulating Library in 1858, public domain via Wikipedia Commons
Bookmobiles found their way into the United States in the early 1900s, often serving rural areas with wagons pulled by mules. The legendary librarian for the Maryland Free Library, Mary Lemist Titcomb, was a leading purveyor; worried that enough people didn’t have access to books, she first started distributing library books in various shops around the county. This later evolved into a book wagon that delivered fresh reads to faraway towns.
Another early female pioneer was Sarah Byrd Askew, who filled her Ford Model T with books and drove out to small counties.
These burgeoning efforts had a snowball effect—more and more librarians created their own versions of book wagons, and today you can find anything from modest book bikes to RV-sized trailers.
The Chicago Public Library Bookmobile via Vintage Everyday
The Los Angeles Public Library Bookmobile via Vintage Everyday
The Bronx Traveling Library via Vintage Everyday
There’s even a National Bookmobile Day each year in April, on Wednesday during National Library Week.
The rich history of bookmobiles is our favorite kind of book lover fodder, and we are so excited to have a bike of our own. We’ll be riding Specs around the Bay Area this summer, and you can follow along on Twitter and Instagram at @specsbookbike—you’ll never know where it’ll turn up next.
For more about our 50th anniversary, check out these posts and follow along with #ChronicleBooksTurns50.
Photography by Michelle Park
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