The Library – Your Secret Retreat

It’s National Library Week
“Find Your Place at the Library”
April 19-25, 2020


The Magic Bookmobile

As a child growing up in the late 1940’s in the little rural village named Buena Vista, Ohio (west of Portsmouth, on US-52), my school was a two room school house. It consisted of a few first and second grade children in one room, and a like number of third and fourth in the other. The school was built a bit after the turn of the 1900’s and remodeled in the 1930’s with large windows, with a drilled well and hand pump, two outhouses – girls and boys, and a big loud bell to call school to order. The bell also served as our town emergency alarm.

Aromas of chalk dust, coal smoke, oiled floors and lunch pails filled
with baloney or “PBJ samiches”and the ever enjoyable apple. great

Aromas of chalk dust, coal smoke, oiled floors and lunch pails filled with bologna or “PBJ samiches” and the ever enjoyable apple. Great memories. What was scarce were books, beyond the text books, including Dick and Jane, we had an ol’ dog-eared copy of a dictionary probably bought in a thrift store, and a few magazines donated by local families.

One of my fondest memories of those first school days, times that imprint our youth, was of the Bookmobile. The Bookmobile was a bus, an icon that stirred images of travel to far places, like Cincinnati or Huntington, West Virginia… and beyond.

In the country, our bookmobile was a substitute for the big library in Portsmouth. The building there is a magnificent edifice that traces its history to a small library at the corner of Market and Front Streets, but it closed. However, in 1879 a building at the corner of Court and Fifth again provided library services. In 1902 Andrew Carnegie donated $50,000 to construct a new library.

If you wanted to catch the bus to go to the library building in town, you would stand on the side of the road and wave your arms vigorously to hail the driver to stop. It was always an exciting time when visitors got off the bus, looking around as if they were confused. Often as was the case, a neighbor would venture forth and assist the stranger. In the hills of southern Ohio, friendliness was considered a church goin’ virtue.

The monthly arrival of the Bookmobile was always a real highlight for the community. It brought the big city to our up river village on the banks of the Ohio.

The monthly arrival of the Bookmobile was always a real highlight for the community. It brought the big city to our upriver village on the banks of the Ohio. The bookmobile itself was an old 1930’s bus, converted into a library on wheels. As you entered, the musty aroma of old books, varnished wood and a hint of diesel swept you up the steps and into a magical world. It was a room filled with shelves on both sides, with new and old titles, and an assortment of magazines, National geographic, Look, Cornet, Mechanic’s Illustrated, Hit Parade… and two kids favorites, Outdoor Life and Highlights!

The driver was also the librarian who assisted you in finding a book or periodical, checking in your returns and stamping out your new reading treasures. Here you chose the books that would fill your bedtime quiet with stories of places and people and times you may never know.

Back in your home that evening, with an open book still resting on your little chest, you would drift away on clouds of sleep, filled with visions of far away places and mysterious adventures dancing about until first light. I didn’t learn until later, that the adults in the community patiently waited until we children selected and checked out our reading material. Then they would climb those same steps, choose from the remaining volumes their reading pleasure.

Once when reminiscing in fond contemplation, the bookmobile, mom shared
that she would take time to help some of the adults with understanding
what they were reading.

The teachers were truly a well source of the community for all the folk.

This year during National Library Week, let’s show our appreciation for the innovative ways librarians and library workers serve our communities during this time of crisis.

That musty old bus was where I found one of my first visions of the world beyond my Appalachian culture. It was on the bus, that I learned there were many ways to explore words, ideas, other places, and so much more… not available in my quaint rural two room school house.

Your library, be it a Bookmobile, school library, or a magnificent Carnegie Public Library, is your gateway to exploration. Today, you can “google,” “search,” and “find” so much on the internet… download on your Kindle, Nook and PDF files to your PC or reader… the world is truly at your fingertips… but nothing can replace the satisfaction of sitting in a library, experiencing the tangible feeling of holding a real book in your hand, turning page after page as you fill your mind with words, meanings and visions imagined. All experienced in the silent solitude among the stacks and rows of millions of words there for you to discover.

“In a good bookroom you feel in some mysterious way that you are absorbing the wisdom contained in all the books through your skin,
without even opening them.” – Mark Twain.

“A library is a good place to go when you feel unhappy, for there, in a book, you may find encouragement and comfort. A library is a good place to go when you feel bewildered or undecided, in a book, you will have your question answered. Books are good company, in sad times and happy times, for books are people – people who have managed to stay alive by hiding between the covers of a book.” – E. B. White

This year, the Pandemic has changed many things, including the libraries. The theme for 2020, “Find your place at the library,” was chosen before the emergence of the COVID19 pandemic that has forced most libraries to temporarily close their physical spaces.

The good news is, our libraries across the nation are still open for business, online. Here you can find virtual services that are needed more than ever. You can access books, videos, audio, games, storytellers — all while safely in your home.

This year during National Library Week, let’s show our appreciation for the innovative ways librarians and library workers serve our communities during this time of crisis.

We agree! When the world is once again “open,” make it a point to remember… there are many avenues for reading sources, but none can replace the sacred home of wisdom and pleasure know as your Public Library. Visit the library near you and rekindle that experience you can find nowhere else. Retreat into the solitude of your mind, filling it in single, uninterrupted purpose.

It is your library, use it!



Portsmouth Ohio Public Library Bookmobile: The Portsmouth Public Library has operated a bookmobile since 1938 and has offered Homebound Services since 2000.


Libraries, both public and private are vital.

In our home we have thousands of volumes in our collection. In the picture is a small part of our collection. We have many contemporary books written by our friends. This is what makes any compilation special.

If you are considering adding to, or beginning a personal library, we would be honored if you would consider including one or more of our titles..

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