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Introducing Specs the Book Bike: Chronicle Books on Wheels

Hi everyone. We’d like you to meet Specs.

Specs the Book Bike

Specs the Book Bike

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.

Specs the Book Bike\Specs the Book Bike

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.

WarringtonPerambulatingLibrary

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.

American Bookmobiles in the Past (1)

The Chicago Public Library Bookmobile via Vintage Everyday

American Bookmobiles in the Past (2)

The Los Angeles Public Library Bookmobile via Vintage Everyday

American Bookmobiles in the Past (22)

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.

Specs the Book Bike

For more about our 50th anniversary, check out these posts and follow along with #ChronicleBooksTurns50.

Photography by Michelle Park

Jenna Homen

Community Manager at Chronicle Books. When she's logged off, she can be found cooking, camping, or in a museum. You can follow her on Twitter at @jn_na.
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