Milwaukee Bookmobile

Hello,  I am looking for a color photo/postcard of the Milwaukee Public Library bookmobiles, as painted in the 1970s or perhaps the later 1960s. As I recall, these were light blue with other trim colors on them. Maybe brown or yellow.

Does anyone know of a site with an image or perhaps could post one or share one with me?



The images that I have found of the bookmobiles are much older than that and don’t have the aqua blue paint.

Thank you.

Comments (6)

  1. I’ve just done a basic Google search as I’m sure you already have done and found nothing. The other only real possibility is to check the Central Library local history room. Have you tried there?

  2. PJ Smith

    Hello Yance,

    As you suspected, I tried Google and found nothing on the Blue Bookmobiles . I even got brave and tried Bing, which is still a mystery to me in forming the correct search phrases.

    it will be a while before I get to the Central Library and was hoping that someone was an enthusiast of these trucks. There used to be one parked at a service station on Locust (oh boy, it might have been Keefe) just east of I-43 within the last five years, but I haven’t been there in some time and wonder if it is still hiding there. There was another one about the same time in a private parking lot in Milwaukee, but I just cannot remember where.

    So, I was hoping to take a chance and see if anyone had a photo. I remember going up the stairs onto the trucks when I was a wee one and getting excited about the chance to take some books home and also to go in the weirdest truck “thingie”.

    If anyone does turn anything up, I would still appreciate an image.

    Thank you.


  3. I’m not too far from Keefe Avenue so will try to swing past that area to see if it is around. I will also ask my contacts at the Library to see what they know.

  4. PJ Smith

    Thank you Yance! That is above and beyond the call of duty. Paul

  5. Ok, I have answers from Daniel Lee!

    In all, MPL owned 9 different bookmobile units – not all at the same time. The most we had at one time was four. At the peak of its service, three of them went out every day on scheduled stops. The fourth was the ‘spare’ or backup in case one broke down.

    No. 1 – The first unit was purchased in 1956 and was maroon and white.

    No. 2-3 – Numbers two and three were received in 1958-59 and were described as jade and cream; green and ivory; or emerald and cream. The only photos from the earliest days are in black in white. I’ve attached one that was taken in 1959 in front of City Hall.

    No. 4-7 – There is no mention of the original paint scheme of numbers four through seven, but in the attached photo of 4 units the number 7 is clearly visible on the far right and was the same paint scheme as two and three. I also have seen a photo of No. 4 with the same scheme. There are also photos from 1971 with this same paint scheme.

    No. 8 – paint scheme not confirmed, but was known as “Big Red.”

    No. 9 – Is noted as, and may have originally been, gold, red, blue and white. It was re-named the Readmobile in 1991 to help promote the library’s literacy initiative. In 2003 this unit was painted white, wrapped with images of people using books and computers and equipped with a satellite dish and computers. This unit was re-wrapped within the next year with different images. All bookmobile service was discontinued at the end of 2005.

    The picture here was taken in the 1980’s by Richard Swearingen, shows two, on the right, with the original paint. In the photo they appear to be blue and cream, but they were definitely a light green and cream. Picture is courtesy of Milwaukee Public Library.


  6. PJ Smith

    Yance, thank you for the effort and time that you put into this.

    And Daniel Lee, thank you also for this.

    The bookmobile second from the right looks the most familiar to me.

    The information is amazing to me! Three bookmobiles on the road daily with a backup in case one broke down. I was never in one when they made the changes to add computers and other media, but it looks like they tried very hard to reach the community. A very sad ending for me to read.

    Thank you again Yance.

    Best regards,

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