From Branches to Bookmobiles

Did you know for a time the library had branches? It did. Through a creative partnership with school district the Library placed branches in 6 public schools by 1932. Some were open only during the school day, others during the summer. All served children as well as adults. By the end of the era of branches in 1941 they were circulating well over 55,996 items.

By closing the branches, there would be a large gap in Library services to the residents of Topeka. The city was getting bigger with every passing year.  Library officials had already been asking the question “How does a Library provide services to a growing metro area”? The answer was simple.   The Traveling Branch was created in 1942, with a house trailer pulled by a Chevrolet coupe.

First Bookmobile

First Bookmobile

The first library on wheels rolled out of the parking lot on March 15,943. The 1,200 books that lined the shelf the first year it circulated 49,057 times. Another library on wheels was added to serve people at their places of work. The trailer gave way to a remodeled city bus. When the demand exceed the capacity of the buses in 1957, a bookmobile was purchased with enough shelf space for 3,000 items. Stops established across the city including shopping centers, schools and neighborhoods. By 1969, bookmobiles made 20 stops that had a circulation of 101,854 books.


In 2013, the Library Foundation’s work with Capitol Federal® Foundation created a literacy partnership that will be enjoyed all over Shawnee County. The $200,000 gift enabled the library to purchase the new bookmobile to replace a 21-year-old vehicle. Friends of the library also supported the purchase of this vehicle.

On the Sherlock Holmes-themed bookmobile Holmes stands almost 8 feet tall. The wrap was designed by the library and Capitol Federal staff, and captured by award-winning KC photographer Alistair Tutton. The design is loosely based on a Conan Doyle short-story The Final Problem. The story is set in Topeka, so you will see scenes photographed at the Kansas Museum of History, The Charles Curtis House & Museum and to rooftop of the Docking State Office Building. Costumed actors appearing on the bus are local talent the library worked with through Topeka Civic Theater & Academy. The actors are Jeremy Barclay (Sherlock Holmes), Bill Gloy (Dr. Watson) and Marc Rapp (Professor Moriarty).

The new bookmobile launched July 16, 2014 stocked with all new books, DVDs, magazines and CDs.






Donna Rae

Donna Rae is Topeka and Shawnee County's historian here at the library. You will find her in the Topeka Room most days helping people solve the history mysteries of life. Other days she is out and about serving on various community oriented projects around town. What most people don't know is that she is an artist too. Photography is visual history and she practices almost every day by documenting the people and places around Topeka on her morning walks. She also loves a good trip anytime, anywhere to see family and friends scattered about the U.S.