A surprise rain fell Friday evening as Eagle Point residents gave a tearful goodbye to their library to the strains of a bagpipe.
"And the heavens started to cry," said branch manager Jeannette Blankenship.
About 70 Eagle Point residents showed up for a parade, followed by a reading of testimonials from supporters, then a lowering of the flag by local Girl Scouts. Finally, the front door was locked and a symbolic wooden padlock was placed on the doors.
Riley Hamilton, 15, a former Eagle Point resident who now lives in Ashland, played three pieces on the bagpipe, offering "When the Battle's Over" after the doors were shut.
For 14-year-old Brittany Hale, the closing of the libraries was particularly distressful.
She developed lesions on the brain as a child. "That's what caused me to be in the chair," she said, indicating her motorized wheelchair.
Hale said she goes to the library twice a day to use the Internet because she can't afford it at home. For someone with limited mobility, she said she's not sure what she'll do without a library.
"I don't just want to stay at home and do nothing," she said.
The closing of the libraries came as a surprise to one local girl.
"How come you guys are shutting down the library?" said 12-year-old Jennifer Flynn.
Someone joked, "Where have you been?"
Jennifer, who had been living in Portland for a while, had a quick response after being told that a county funding crisis was closing libraries: "This is retarded."
In Eagle Point, 900 local children signed up for the summer reading program last year, which represents a majority of children in the town.
"I can't believe people let it go so far," said Eagle Point resident Bud McCall. "Where will the children go?"
McCall drove an antique car in the parade along with other locals who showed their support for the libraries. A levy on the May 15 ballot, if approved, would reopen the county's 15 branches on a budget of $8.3 million a year.
"I hope the levy passes," said McCall, who also thinks the governor should take a more active role in preventing libraries from closing.
Shady Cove resident Rick Mori said his love of libraries goes back to his childhood, when he was offered the option of going to the babysitter or going to the library. "A kindly librarian taught me the Dewey decimal system," he remembered. "She let me have the run of the stacks. She opened the world up to me."
Tad Springer, who brought his 14-month-old son, Dominick, and 11-year-old daughter, Madeline, said, "This is an absolute shame."
The Eagle Point resident, who has lived in various communities in Jackson County over the years, said libraries have been invaluable for him, helping him get back on his feet after a divorce six years ago.
"My father always told me, 'If you can read, you can learn to do anything."
Contrary to what some people might think, Springer said libraries are well used, recalling a time when he was placed on a waiting list to use the library's computer behind 50 children.
"This is a basic public service that will be extremely missed," he said.
Many local children voiced their concern over the closing of the libraries.
"It's pretty messed up they're going to shut libraries because of funding," said Devan Culbertson, 12.
His friend and classmate at Eagle Point Middle School, 11 year-old Paul Willingham III, said, "For kids, this is the only place they can have fun at."
"It's very sad and pretty upsetting because people have learned in this library," said Lacey Meracle, 12.
Eleven-year-old Gabby Finley encouraged parents to vote for the levy. "It's a very good place for kids to come after school," she said.
As the doors were just about to close on the library, Gabby clung to the handle. "I don't want to go out," she said. "I want to stay in here forever."
Reach reporter Damian Mann at 776-4476 or firstname.lastname@example.org.