Nora Bateson’s Bookmobile for the PEI Library Demonstration 1933-1936

Antigonish Movement Reserve Mines Bookmobile from Beaton Institute

Nora Bateson Bookmobile for PEI Library Demonstration, 1933.  Courtesy of Beaton Institute #83-6197-13497

In the original Imagine Antigonish collection launched in 2014. this photo of the bookmobile was incorrectly attributed to an initiative of Fr. Jimmy Tompkins and the Antigonish Movement when he was the parish priest in Reserve Mines. Sue Adams, who has done extensive scholarship on Nora Bateson and the history of the public library system in Nova Scotia, brought to our attention the correct attribution. In fact, this mobile library was Nora Bateson’s car during the PEI Library Demonstration (1933-1936). She designed the removable bookshelves and had the car modified to fit them. They could be taken out and stacked to form a display to pique people’s interest as she went around PEI drumming up enthusiasm for public libraries.

Sue Adams believes Nora may have sent the photo to Fr. Jimmy, hence its appearance in his records at the Beaton Institute. Reserve Mines certainly didn’t have a bookmobile in Fr. Jimmy’s days.

A link for further detail – – features the same photo of the car, as well as Nora’s details of construction. Sue Adams also found in the archives the Carnegie account books in which the car alterations were listed, and she later found the actual invoice for the construction of the boxes.

Amazingly, the carpenter who constructed the boxes was a relative of Charlottetown historian Catherine Hennessey.

First “Bookmobile”, ca. 1933, in Nora Bateson’s own words:

“…I have contrived an arrangement for the back of a small car which I use, by which I can carry about three hundred books. It is a series of drawers which when taken out and set on end become book shelves. It can be set up in about 2 minutes. For all sorts of conventions, fairs and meetings where you want to display books to back up your words, I have found it of great service.” —

From 1933-1936, Prince Edward Island was the site of a demonstration project to establish a regional library system, funded by the Carnegie Corporation of New York. $60,000 US was donated to hire staff, purchase books and materials, in an effort to entice communities to commit to reading and support a library building in their area.

Posted in Education & Lifelong Learning and tagged , , .

One Comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *