Aurora Public Library ‘Bookmobile Memories’ book published just in time for National Bookmobile Day

bookmobile archives 007April 12, 2013

Aurora Public Library ‘Bookmobile Memories’ book published just in time for National Bookmobile Day

Kathleen Butzen, Outreach Services manager for Aurora Public Library, is passionate about the Bookmobile.

That’s why, when National Bookmobile Day rolls around in mid-April, she is excited to unveil something new and exciting about the red, white and blue vehicle that is Aurora’s library on wheels. (National Bookmobile Day 2013 is April 17.)

Last year, an original song and video was unveiled (“Why we Love our Bookmobile” by Aurora musican Kevin Trudo.) You can check it out on You Tube:

This year, it’s a book titled “Bookmobile Memories.”

Why a book? Well, Aurora has had a bookmobile on the road for 60 years, and Butzen thought is was time to put together a scrapbook of pictures and memories to preserve the Bookmobile’s history.

She turned to library volunteer Frank Patterson, who has a gift for writing as well as a love for history and research. Patterson set to work digging up documents and photos that would tell the story, then put the call out on social media for people to share their memories. All library locations posted flyers asking for memories, and word spread among former employees about the book project.

Pretty soon, Patterson had a good-sized folder full of photographs and memories, and he set to work laying it all out on, an online book publisher.

The task took about eight months from start to finish. As the book states on the first page, “the interesting thing about history is that when you add people and memories to it, you get a mix of reality with a dose of fantasy. Because a bookmobile is many things to many people, each person has a unique memory. But that’s okay! A bookmobile can be a magical thing to a child, a curiosity to a teen, a convenience to an adult, and a lifeline for an older adult or someone with a disability.”

Aurora Public Library rolled out its first bookmobile in September, 1953. The vehicle was a 1946 Chevrolet bus that was on loan from the State of Illinois.

The new traveling branch was not immediately recognizable to all Aurorans. The first monthly report told of a lady who entered the Bookmobile, handed a dime to the librarian on board and asked to be let off at Fifth Street.

“Working on “Bookmobile Memories” was great fun,” Patterson said. “The Bookmobile holds a special place in the hearts of many Aurorans, and it was a pleasure to gather their memories for this retrospective.”

As Butzen says in the book, “There is something inspiring about doing a job where the customer gets excited when you show up to do your work. When we arrive to work, children run to the Bookmobile to get the latest book in the “Diary of a Wimpy Kid” series. Nursing home residents wait patiently for us to arrive and open our doors to do business for the day. It’s an incredible feeling and not many people can say that about the work they do. But for those of us who work on a bookmobile, we experience this every day.”

Library patron Elizabeth Theis shared this Bookmobile essay, which is included in the book:

“Once upon a time there were 6 children: 5 boys and 1 girl. As each became of age, they were introduced to the Bookmobile. None ever wanted to wash hands and go; they’d rather play. But the wicked mother used tough love and they obeyed. The theory of “mustn’t force the darlings” was shot down. Today, from ages 47 to 57 including that tough old mother, all are still avid readers. The aged mother especially appreciates the van bringing books to her home.”

Anyone who would like to read more can stop by The Express Center, 1100 Church Road, to see one of the books on display, or peruse one at any other Aurora library location. And even though “Bookmobile Memories” is out now, there’s no need to rely just on memories of the traveling branch.

The Bookmobile schedule is available on the library’s website (, and it will soon be coming to a location near you. 

To order a copy of “Bookmobile Memories,” go to Call Amy Roth, 630-264-4125, for more information about the book. 


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