WordonWheelsForty years ago the Montgomery County-Norristown Public Library created the Words On Wheels (WOW) bookmobile program to serve seniors throughout Montgomery County, Pennsylvania.  In 1979, using federal seed money and do-it-yourself grit, librarian Alan Reider transformed a former bread truck into a bookmobile by adding book shelves and a wheelchair ramp to the vehicle’s cargo area. In 2019, the third-generation Words On Wheels bookmobile continues to provide public library services to senior patrons who have mobility challenges or do not have a public library in their community. The program is supported with sustained funding from a County Coordination Aid Grant via the Pennsylvania State Bureau of Library Development.

The Words On Wheels bookmobile presently makes 90 stops each month at senior residential communities and activity centers throughout Montgomery County. The WOW is a full-service branch library stocked with large print items, audio books, and movies. WOW patrons also have access to items in the union catalog shared with the other public libraries in the district, statewide ACCESS PA interlibrary loan services, and online electronic resources.

For homebound patrons not served by a WOW stop, the Montgomery County-Norristown Public Library offers its free Books by Mail program, which delivers library materials directly to the patron’s door. In addition, patrons who have difficulty reading or listening to standard book formats are referred to the statewide Library for the Blind and Physically Handicapped program. This full spectrum of services ensures that all seniors in Montgomery County have the opportunity to experience the joy of reading and lifelong learning.

The Words On Wheels program is managed by the Bookmobile and Outreach Services Department of the Montgomery County-Norristown Public Library. The department operates a fleet of four bookmobiles and five cargo vans. Every four weeks, the department performs:

  • 500 courier van deliveries to district libraries
  • 50 Extension Branch bookmobile stops in thirteen municipalities
  • 120 Books Go Round Branch bookmobile stops at preschool classrooms
  • 90 Words On Wheels Branch bookmobile stops for seniors
  • Books by Mail service for temporarily and permanently homebound residents of the county

Submitted by:
Thomas Fluharty
Head, Bookmobile and Outreach Services Department
Montgomery County-Norristown Public Library