Reanimation Library

The Reanimation Library is a long-term “project-in-residence” at Proteus Gowanus. The project-library describes itself as “an independent presence library.*” The asterisk leads you to the following text:

*Presence library is a mistranslation of the German word for reference library, Präsenzbibliothek. In addition to being a non-circulating collection, the library encourages IRL encounters with actual books and actual humans.

Non-circulating books are simply books that must be used on-site in the space that provide them, but in Reanimation’s case the “collection of books … have fallen out of routine circulation and been acquired for their visual content.” Basically, in all likelihood your local library won’t have these books on their shelves, or even in their “stacks.” (That said, the book is actually quite common in NYC-area libraries, but once you’re outside the boroughs’ influence you’ve got to go quite far to find it.)

I’d estimate the collection to be at least 2k-strong. So of all the shelves and spines and titles to even glance at, during a recent momentary pause in the space my eyes immediately focused onto Bookmobiles. “That’s weird,” I thought. “The spine and bound look very academic.” While not exactly academic, perhaps even more shocking was that the book was published in 1967, by author Eleanor Frances Brown. “1967! No way!” (Not to mention the author has written other book-books like Bibliotherapy and its widening applications.)

The assumption that bookmobiles were perhaps something of a more-contemporary phenomenon was shattered in an instant. Not only were bookmobiles around in the 1960s, but there was enough content on them to publish a 471-page book!

The book’s List of Illustrations titles are illuminating – and some hilarious:

Typical Bookmobile – Early 1940’s
A Book Collection Like This is Irresistible
Cab Forward or ”Snubnose” Type
Small Model – 12-Footer
Two Book Trailer, St. Louis County Library
Compact Model for Special Use
Shelving Detail
”Name the Bookmobile” Contest
Large, Easy-to-Read Signs

(the pages of text are basically 28 pointers on how to organize a bookmobile in your town!)

And that’s just the peering into the rabbit hole that is the bookmobile.

Any random search will reveal decades-old web pages still up linking to bookmobile resources. Or who knew the Internet Archive have their own bookmobile! Or that people take day trips to see this abandoned US Army bookmobile. Or or or!!

The bookmobiles topic always reminds me of this "Weapon of Mass Instruction" book-art car by Raul Lemesoff.

The bookmobiles topic always reminds me of this “Weapon of Mass Instruction” book-art car by Raul Lemesoff.