Inspiration: The Pack Horse Library Project in rural Kentucky

(From Wikipedia) Because of the Great Depression and a lack of budget money, the American Library Association estimated in May 1936 that around a third of all Americans no longer had “reasonable” access to public library materials.[2]

Eastern, rural Kentucky is a geographically isolated area, cut off from much of the country.[3] Prior to the creation of the Pack Horse Library Project, many people in rural Appalachian Kentucky did not have access to books.[4] The percentage of people who were illiterate in eastern Kentucky was at around 31 percent.[4] People who lived in rural, mostly inaccessible areas wanted to become more literate, seeing education as a way to escape poverty.[5] While there were traveling libraries, which were created by the Kentucky Federation of Women’s Clubs starting in 1896, the lack of roads and population centers in eastern Kentucky discouraged the creation of most public library services in those locations.[6] The traveling libraries were discontinued in 1933.[7] In Kentucky, 63 counties had no library services at all during the early 1930s.[8]

The first Pack Horse Library was created in Paintsville in 1913 and started by May F. Stafford.[9] It was supported by a local coal baron, John C.C. Mayo, but when Mayo died in 1914, the program ended because of lack of funding.[9] Elizabeth Fullerton, who worked with the women’s and professional projects at the WPA, decided to reuse Stafford’s idea.[10] In 1934, A Presbyterian minister who ran a community center in Leslie County offered his library to the WPA if they would fund people to carry the books to people who could not easily access library materials.[8][11] That started the first pack horse library, which was administered by the Federal Emergency Relief Administration (FERA) until the WPA took it over in 1935.[10][12] By 1936, there were eight pack horse libraries in operation.[13]

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