THE BOOK MISSIONARY: Mary Lemist Titcomb, Inventor of the Bookmobile

A portrait of Titcomb from waist up

Mary Lemist Titcomb was a pioneering librarian at the turn of the 20th century, when public libraries were first appearing in America. Believing strongly in the power of books, especially for children in far-flung places, she invented America’s first Bookmobile: a horse-drawn, specially constructed book-wagon to bring books to remote farms in the Blue Ridge Mountains. Her triumphs over prejudice and disaster resulted in nationwide bookmobile programs that continue to affect the lives of millions globally.

Our guest is Sharlee Mullins Glenn, award-winning author of Library on Wheels, the new children’s biography of Titcomb and her Book Contraption.

Visit the digital archive of the Washington County Free Library for more photos, information and resources. Or visit the Digital Public Library of America’s fascinating exhibit on the history of libraries.

*Correction–in this episode Glenn stated that Titcomb was only four feet tall. She misspoke, Titcomb was actually five feet tall.



All photos below courtesy of the Washington County Free Library unless otherwise indicated

Sharlee Mullins Glenn is an award-winning poet, essayist, and children’s book author. She was a Hinckley Scholar at Brigham Young University, holds an MA in Humanities, and taught college for a number of years before giving up academia for the writing life. Glenn presents at conferences and workshops across the country and her work has appeared in Women’s Studies, Irreantum, The Southern Literary Journal, Segullah, and BYU Studies. She has also published a novel and a number of picture books for children. She is the founder and president of Mormon Women for Ethical Government. Her book Library on Wheels: Mary Lemist Titcomb and America’s First Bookmobile, will be available in April 2018.


Music featured in this episode included:


“Goodbye, Liza Jane” by Marc Nelson

“Granite Creek” by Andy Reiner and Jon Sousa

 “Arirang” by Andy Reiner and Jon Sousa

“My New Friend” by Jeff Cuno

 “Richmond” arranged by Andy Reiner
performed by Berklee World Strings directed by Eugene Friesen
featured soloists Bruce Molsky and Darol Anger



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  1. I listed to this episode the day it came out and LOVED it. Finally had a chance to visit your website today and these pictures are amazing!! The photo with the little girl getting the book out of the cupboard on the porch reminds me of all the neighborhood libraries around my neighborhood. So great!

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