I love librarians. I wish they ruled the world. So, I heard this great story on NPR the other night that was all about librarians on horseback. I was simply gob smacked. I’d never heard of such a thing, but wow, was it cool.
So, the history is that in 1935, the WPA (Works Progress Administration) as part of the New Deal, hired women librarians to be part of the Pack Horse Project to deliver books long distances by either horse or mule in the Appalachians and other rural distracts for both education and support. Because of the Great Depression many schools had been closed, and the illiteracy rate kept going up. This of course was not a good thing for the country, and the belief was that if books and magazines could be delivered directly to the families, this would encourage parents to teach their children to read.
Many of the books had been donated by richer citizens. Also, the librarians fixed up old books, and put together “scrapbooks” with articles and stories they believed that their readers would be interested in. Each pack could carry about 100 books, and the librarians carried these books to homes and schools about once a month. These books were then sent on to other locations. The librarians tracked which books and scrapbooks had gone where so that people wouldn’t get the same books over and over again. They also offered reading lessons to citizens.
This was not a walk in the park for the librarians. They needed to be able to provide their own horse/mule. Many of these were rented. The “roads” they traveled were difficult, and the hours were long. However, they were often the only ones with a job and provided for their families. The Pack Horse Project employed about 200 librarians, and they in turn they established 30 libraries, and serviced about 100,000 people.
In 1943 the funding for this project stopped, but the vision remains. To this day there are bookmobiles in many areas of the country that provide books to both inner-city neighborhoods and rural areas. As I said, librarians are awesome!