In Montclair, this bookmobile got rolling in 1969 (History and Heritage)
By ARIEL ZEITLIN
For Montclair Local
I was looking for images relating to summer reading, the program that keeps children from losing ground in literacy over the long school break, when I happened upon these lively shots of kids outdoors.
Welcome to the “Grass Roots Summer Reachout,” with a library bookmobile that visited parks, playgrounds and neighborhood street corners from 1969 through the mid-1970s. As a 1970 Montclair Times article put it, “The Montclair Free Public Library has gone mod, and the mod thing is to go where the action is.”
The “book wagon” made stops at parks, streets and schools around Montclair, ut its activities were mainly focused in Glenfield Park. Then, as now, the library collaborated with local and national groups to provide community service; in this case, the Neighborhood Youth Corps, the NAACP, and Montclair Grass Roots Save Tomorrow Program all played important roles. The program was made possible by federal funds allocated to the State of New Jersey for library work.
In addition to bringing around the book wagon, staff members held registration drives for library cards and did extensive programming. Children enjoyed the services of a professional storyteller three times a week, and library staff members held story times two mornings a week. As you can see from the photos, a good time was apparently had by all.
This year’s Montclair Public Library summer reading program is still alive and well at the library, with the theme of “Tails and Tales,” and we are still running fun, engaging outdoor programs for children, including Listen on the Lawn, Boogie Woogie Babies, Unique Creatures at the Branch, and the Leap Into Science Wind Experiment with the Franklin Institute. We also still bring our eTuk bookmobile — a three-wheel vehicle that can easily “tuck” into a space — to key outdoor events. For more information go to montclairlibrary.org.
Sometimes the inscriptions on the backs of these archival photos include names and other information about the people in them. Unfortunately, we don’t have that information for these. If you recognize someone, please let us know!
“History & Heritage” is a series on Montclair history written by representatives of the Montclair History Center and the Montclair Public Library. Ariel Zeitlin is a programming librarian at Montclair Public Library. She runs Open Book / Open Mind, the library’s author conversation series, as well as the Coffee & Crime Mystery Book Club. When she’s not at the library she can often be found gardening, surrounded by her three cats. To see more historic photographs, visit Montclair History Online at digifind-it.com/montclair/home.php.