The Tiny Little Book Nook That Once Was My Library

York County Public Library pre-1984

Here in Alexandria, my family and I visit the local libraries rather frequently (we have an eight year old daughter). The libraries around here are excellent — expansive and full of books, audio / video media, and computers for the public galore.

When I was a kid growing up (long ago) in York County, however, things were a little less lavish. First of all, spotting a computer anywhere in public when I was my daughter’s age (that would be 1980) was an occasion to be noted. And second, the local library was, well, a somewhat limited resource.

Our local library, the York County Public Library in Grafton, was small. It was so small that it resided in a (small) strip mall along George Washington Memorial Highway known as Grafton Shopping Center [map]. It was roughly the same size as the ABC store next to it and smaller, as I recall, than the lovely Joe & Mima’s pizzeria and the Boulevard Cleaners that flanked them both. It was truly small.

I remember going in there as an eight to twelve year old, picking out books and borrowing the occasional audio cassette tape album. (I became a Beatles fan, listening to those tapes.) It was a special place to me although, as I recall, they didn’t have enough dinosaur books, so we sometimes made the hike over to the Main Street Library towards downtown Newport News.

York County Library - opened 1984Happily, a new library many times the size of the one in the Grafton Shopping Center was built on GWM Hwy a few miles closer to Yorktown [map], and in 1984 that replaced the strip mall location and became the place where we did our book borrowing. I recall they even had a public computer setup — a single Apple IIe with an RGB monitor (a rare configuration). (You’ll have to pardon the tech details, my other blog covers retro computing…)

The new library was a wonderful upgrade that I enjoyed for years. It’s still alive and well, by the way.

That oh-so diminutive library crossed my mind a few months back and, wanting to do a little writeup here, I checked in with the York County Library staff via Facebook recently and they were kind enough to honor my request for a photograph of the tiny little library of my youth, which you see at the top of this post. 5736 George Washington Memorial Highway. It was lately a tax firm but now, I believe, is vacant.

Who else out there remembers checking out a book or two from this quaint little place that once was, in Grafton, Virginia?

Update Feb. 9, 2015: I have come to learn, through responses to this post on Facebook, that before landing in the Grafton Shopping Center, the library started out in a two-story house located at the intersection of Dare Rd. and Grafton Dr., in Grafton [map]. The first librarian was Beverly Dudley who had two daughters, Debbie and Sandy, and a son, Randy.

[ Photos of the current York County Library and the current Grafton Shopping Center storefront courtesy of RetailByRyan95. ]


  1. When I was a child, small book stores also occupied a part of my memories. It’s real there. But for the next generations, when all things are available on the web and devices like Kindle, I am not sure whether they will have that strong connections like we do.

  2. Hello Nostalgic Virginian!
    I absolutely loved your article! I came across your blog while trying to research pictures of the old Yorktown Library. I wonder if you wouldn’t mind sending me a reply email; I am in search of any pictures that I might be able to use for a project. The library today is a yoga studio owned by my mom and sister! I wanted to put together a special written piece for their studio about the building’s earlier history!
    I would be so appreciative.
    Very Kindly,

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.