Photo of John Philip inspecting a new bookmobile. (n.d.)
John Philip inspecting a new bookmobile. (n.d.)
February 3, 2016

It is with sadness that the State Library announces the death of John Philip, former Head of Field Unit Operations at the State Library, on February 1, 2016. John retired from the State Library in 1995 after 25 years of dedicated bookmobile service and library system development. Often referred to as the “bookmobile guru,” John was both diligent and passionate in his work to support outreach services with bookmobiles. Nationally recognized for his work, he was featured in a 1994 Wall Street Journal article titled Bookmobiles Make a Comeback, Doing What Libraries Can’t: John Philip Champions Them on Tour in Amish Country; ‘The Book Stops Here’.[i] He believed bookmobiles were vital to reaching those that could not, or were not able to, go to traditional library settings. His affection for bookmobiles is evident in this quote:

“You walk into a bookmobile and there’s a smiling person who knows your name and what you like to read,” Mr. Philip says, “You can make noise and chat with neighbors. It’s intimate and informal, like shopping at a mom and pop store.”[ii]

John began his career at the State Library on August 25, 1969 as Supervisor of Field Units. According a 1969 issue of News from the State Library, John was a graduate of Columbia University Library School and prior to joining the State Library worked at the Suffolk Corporation Library System in New York State where he was Head of Bookmobile Operations and Young Adult Consultant. Earlier in his career he was Director of Borough of Pompton Lakes, New Jersey, Public Library and in a branch of the New York Public Library System.[iii]

State and federal reductions in funding, increasing fuel costs and other significant changes took place, along with advances in technology in library operations and services, and transportation during his years of Field Unit Operations oversight. Others saw this as a time to reduce bookmobile services but John Philip knew there were many who would not have access to library services without them. After drastic reductions in federal LSCA Title I funds the State Emergency Board of Ohio approved $63,559 in emergency funds on February 25, 1970 to the State Library to maintain its bookmobile services through June 30. In addition to public libraries that provided bookmobile services on their own, at that time the State Library also operated bookmobiles under contract with local libraries in 21 counties, servicing 48,022 readers.

The number of bookmobiles and their range in America changed dramatically during his tenure. As their numbers across the nation fell, John began a campaign of writing and lecturing both at the state and national levels about the value of bookmobiles. John established the nation’s first bookmobile conference in 1986 in Columbus to bring supporters together. His efforts continued long after his retirement and the Association for Bookmobile and Outreach Services (ABOS) annual bookmobile conference continues to this day.[iv] John is known by ABOS as the “Father” of the National Bookmobile Conference and each year they recognize a library leader with the John Philip Award. According to their website, “This award honors his dedication and tireless work and serves as a pinnacle for all Bookmobile and Outreach staff to aspire to reach.”[v]

The Ohio Library Council honored John Philip with OLC Librarian of the Year in 1994. The award recognizes distinguished service to the profession, for active and innovative leadership in the development of libraries and the improvement of library service. John was honored for his years of crusading for services to rural patrons and those who can’t get to their local library. OLC also honors him through the John Philip Outreach Award which recognizes exceptional achievement in library outreach services. According to OLC, “During his tenure, Philip often marveled at the determined efforts of library employees to bring the benefits of libraries to these isolated populations. Upon his retirement, this Outreach Award was established and named in his honor.”[vi]

The American Library Association website reports there were 2000 bookmobiles on the road in the 1960s. By the time of his retirement that number had declined to 978 with Ohio having the second highest number at 61. As a testament to his legacy, Ohio’s number of bookmobile has remained steady since his retirement with 52 reported in the 2014 Ohio Public Library Statistics. In contrast, there were only 615 reported nationally in 2013.[vii]

John Philip will long be remembered for his guidance and support to librarians, and dedication and passion for library outreach services.
Funeral Service:
Saturday, February 6, 2016 2:00 p.m. Moreland Funeral Home, 3:30 p.m. at Chapel North

Visitation Friday, February 5, 2016 from 6-8 p.m. at Moreland Funeral Home

Additional information about funeral services for John Philip is available on the Moreland Funeral Home website.

[i] Horwitz, T. (1994). Bookmobiles make a comeback, doing what libraries can’t; John Philip champions them on tour in Amish country; ‘the book stops here’. The Wall Street Journal Western Edition. p. 1.

[ii] Horwitz, T. (1994). Bookmobiles make a comeback, doing what libraries can’t; John Philip champions them on tour in Amish country; ‘the book stops here’. The Wall Street Journal Western Edition. p. 1.

[iii] State Library of Ohio (1969). Librarians Join State Library Staff. News from the State Library. 98, 23.

[iv] Association of Outreach and Bookmobile Services (n.d.) 2015 ABOS Conference. Retrieved from

[v] Association of Outreach and Bookmobile Services (n.d.) 2015 ABOS Conference. Retrieved from resources/scholarships-awards/the-john-philip-award/

[vi] Ohio Library Council. (n.d.). Honors and Awards. Retrieved from

[vii] ALA (n.d.). Bookmobiles in the U.S. Retrieved from


Media Contact:

Marsha McDevitt-Stredney, Public Information Officer and Director, Marketing & Communications (614) 644-6875