Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Library books delivered on horseback

By 1933, in the depth of the Great Depression, unemployment in Appalachia reached 40% and many towns had nothing to read, so the Works Progress Administration created the Pack Horse Library -- women hired by Uncle Sam to saddle up at dawn and ride through snow and muddy creeks to deliver reading material to isolated mountain communities in Kentucky.

Local schools helped cover the costs, and books, magazines and newspapers were all donated. The book women rode 100 to 120 miles per week on their own horses or mules. They had designated routes, regardless of the weather. If the destination was too far to reach on horseback, they walked the final miles. All the book women were recruited locally, so they would be familiar faces to otherwise distrustful mountain folk.  By the end of 1938, there were 274 librarians riding in 29 counties. In total, the program employed nearly 1,000 riding librarians.

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