Mobile libraries are collections of books arranged in vehicles and so staffed as to provide a library service capable of being directed to communities which are often though not exclusively, rural. They are used by some municipal and many country library systems in the UK. In many areas abroad they are making notable contributions to the development of library services particularly in large parts of Asia, Africa, and the Middle East. There is a distinction between mobile branch libraries and traveling libraries. The mobile branch library is a medium-to-large vehicle with a shelf stock of upwards of 2000 books used over reasonably good roads to serve villages and towns. The traveling library is a smaller vehicle with a limited stock used in the service of scattered communities and providing, in some cases, a house-to-house service in remote areas. Mobile and traveling libraries vehicle is made with specific provisions. The shelves face inwards and generally run round three sides of the vehicle. The fourth is usually reserved for the issue desk. The books facing forward in the rear of the vehicle pose a special problem since heavy braking will dislodge them. Even titled shelves, hinged slabs, and sliding grills are sometimes used to prevent this. Issue desks normally cross or partly cross the front of the vehicle. Adjustable seats allow the librarian to face inwards to attend to readers at halts and to face forward while the vehicle is in motion. Roof lights are provided which may be flush or of the projecting lantern variety.
Visits are made in rural areas at weekly, fortnightly, or monthly intervals. The duration of the mobile library visit depends on the size of the community served. The mobile library has played a notable part in the development of the country library system. The rural community had been largely served by village library centers with limited book collections and usually an untrained librarian. The mobile library provides a considerably larger stock and a trained librarian in towns.