Books and So Much More Available at Historic Portsmouth Library -
“OPEN TO ALL” reads the inscription over the front door of the Portsmouth Public Library, and under the leadership of director Paige Williams the institution has remained open and thriving despite an economic recession and a cut in state funding.
The Portsmouth Public Library began as a small collection in a building on Front Street in 1831 and was later moved into a building donated by the board of education. By 1901, the collection had outgrown its location, so prominent Portsmouth businessman and avid historian Henry A. Lorberg solicited funding from philanthropist Andrew Carnegie, who donated $50,000 to construct the current Portsmouth Public Library building in 1906. Architecturally, the library maintains its integrity, boasting a beautiful dome constructed of thousands of pieces of stained glass and maintaining “an area entirely around the building to give plenty of light and air,” as stipulated by the Carnegie charitable trust.
The library’s mission is to serve, educate, inform, and provide recreational materials and activities for residents of Scioto County (although any resident of the state of Ohio can acquire a card) as well as Greenup and Lewis counties in Kentucky. “In this area, there are no commercial bookstores, and the library is a place where booklovers can come and browse. Some of the audio/visual equipment can get really pricey, so it just makes sense to use the library for that,” Williams said. “Also, a lot of families, even if they want and can afford a computer, live in a rural area where Internet access or cable may not be reliable or available, so we make Wi-Fi available for them.”
The library does much more than circulate books, CDs and DVDs. For adults, it provides computer classes on basic computing and word processing including the use of specific software such as Excel and Photoshop as well as classes on job hunting and resume writing –all free of charge. “I feel our computer classes are one of our most underutilized resources,” Williams noted. “Other places have them, but not for free. We’d really like people to be aware that we offer training.”
Additionally, traditional library programming, such as book discussion groups, movie nights and crafting classes, are available at the downtown location as well as at the library’s other four branches. A bookmobile service is in its 52nd year, and a homebound service, which delivers library materials to those who are unable to travel, also is operational.
The library’s website offers a wide-range of resources of interest including research databases in fields such as psychology, environmentalism, and education; access to encyclopedias and other reference materials; tools to search newspapers and magazines; ebooks and emagazines for download; resources to learn conversational skills in foreign languages; and instructions for digital DIY projects.
A special collection of local history and genealogy information is available at the Portsmouth location. The library has recently undertaken the Scioto County Memory Project, a collection of audiotaped or videotaped personal histories focusing on the flood that ravaged the area in 1937, life in the area during wartime, experiences of the Great Depression, and the heyday of the steel mills and labor unions in Scioto County. Many original sources and photographs from these time periods are being digitized to ensure their preservation. “There is no other organization active in this county trying to save or gather these histories. When I came on in 2010, I decided that’s what we should do as the gathering place of the people. There are amazing histories in this area that people may not know about, and every person has a story to tell,” Williams stated.
Activities for children from the age of three months old through the teen years are popular with the community. Story times for toddlers and families, craft project classes and activities that tie in with a book or movie are all available at the various library locations.
Upcoming events at the Portsmouth Public Library include the Down By the River Quilt Guild’s yearly quilt show in March as well as an ice cream social and local author showcase during National Library Week in April. A space upstairs is being revamped to become a young adult area.
A native of Wheelersburg, Ohio, Ms. Williams is happy to be serving her hometown. “My parents knew the right name to give me – Paige! I’ve always loved books, loved reading, and I love working in libraries. Now, I get to move the library forward, and look at the progress we can make!”
LIBRARY CONTACT INFORMATION:
1220 Gallia St.
Portsmouth, OH 45662
Monday, Wednesday, Thursday—10AM-8PM
103 Lucasville-Minford Rd.
Lucasville, OH 45648
3850 Rhodes Ave.
New Boston, OH 45662
Wednesday, Thursday, Friday—10AM-6PM
496 South Webster St.
South Webster, OH 45682
Wednesday, Thursday, Friday—10AM-6PM
10745 Old Gallia Pike
Wheelersburg, OH 45694
Photos Ashley Gallaher Quinn