For the Love of Libraries: Portsmouth Virginia Library

Today’s submission is from Rachel Tayse, who writes about food education, urban homesteading, and natural living at Hounds in the Kitchen. You may have been introduced to her earlier when I raved about her menu plan for her back-country canoe trip.

This post is an installment in my For Love of Libraries series, about libraries and travel, and intended to show my personal support for the 2010 Columbus Metropolitan Library levy. These posts are not meant to represent the authors’ support of the library levy.


I moved to Portsmouth Virginia from my lifelong home of Columbus Ohio in 2002.  Still looking for work and short on money, I visited the local library to check out books in my first week.  I searched for the computer book catalog and was greeted with a card catalog and a small one at that.  I browsed books with hand written Dewey Decimal codes on the spine.  A scant four computers, newly acquired from a grant, had paper wait lists four people deep.  When I went to check out, the staff member filed a card in the back of my books and stamped each inside.

Portsmouth Main Library

Portsmouth Main Library, Portsmouth VA

This library was old school in a manner I thought existed only in vintage movies.  Before my first experience at the Portsmouth library, I could scarcely remember a return date stamped in a book.  Maybe it happened in one of my elementary schools?

I was shocked, not because of the methods of the Portsmouth library, but because up to that point I failed to recognize the gift I left behind in Columbus.  Columbus Metro Libraries, with their constant drive to improve the customer experience through technology and an incredible book selection, had conditioned me to expect an exceptional library.  CML is a treasure I was happy to return to in 2004 and hope to never lose again.


I’m not that much older than Rachel, but I do remember having check-out cards in the back of books in my childhood neighborhood library. I loved reading over the previous borrowers to see if I knew any of them. Now I see what a privacy violation that was, but at the time it was like an early form of social media.

Even when we’d visit libraries while on trips, to places where I knew no one, I’d pick up a book and immediately scan the card in the back to see how popular a book was, gauge the average reader age by the names, and see when it was last read.

What was it like where you lived and traveled? Did the libraries you encountered on your travels make you homesick?

This entry was posted in Causes, Guest Posts and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

1 Response to For the Love of Libraries: Portsmouth Virginia Library

  1. Katie says:

    Ha! I love that you call reading the names on the date due cards “an early form of social media”! Exactly! A precursor to Goodreads.

    It’s my first visit to your blog, and I’m really enjoying your posts.

    Thanks for supporting Issue 4!


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s