SHADY COVE — After opening the library daily for nearly 14 years, branch supervisor Karen Rickerd slowly turned her key Friday morning, preparing for one last five-hour day.
"Since Monday, it's been crazy, Rickerd said. "People are calling, saying goodbye and telling us how much they will miss us. It just brings a tear to your eye."
Twelve-year-old Kayla Bryning was the first patron to burst through the library's door. She was returning her sister's long-overdue book.
"I love the library," she said. "I'm really going to miss it."
Close behind Kayla, volunteer Marge Alexander, as usual, was right on time for her Friday afternoon shift. Grabbing an armful of yesterday's returned books she began to shelve.
"This isn't right," she said, making sure the book spines all lined up. "We have to have our libraries."
Shirlene Rainery has been volunteering for 11 years and she came to return her honorary gold volunteer name tag.
She left with a smile after Rickerd told her that the name tag was still hers and that she could keep it.
Library clerk Lisa Ramos-Vance was still fighting tears.
"I was watching the news last night and I started to cry," she said. "I've made so many friends with the people who come into the branch; you just don't understand how wonderful these people are."
Tears and hugs filled most of the day, as well-wishers came to say goodbye. These were personal partings — all with first names and an unwillingness to lose a friend.
"This library has been nothing less than a blessing to our family," said Evelyn Jones. She, too, was nearly in tears as she returned audiocassettes for the last time. "My father is a 76-year-old disabled Korean War veteran and he can't work the TV or VCR remotes, so he listens to these tapes for hours, and almost all night, because he can't sleep."
Jones said the library staff keeps track of what her father has listened to, and when something new comes in, they always let her know.
"Dad's really depressed about the closing," she said. "We'll be lost without this library."
Linda Allen agreed. She was returning two bags of books that her brother had finished this week.
"He's 79, deaf and can't get out of the house," she said. "He reads at least two books a day and he remembers everything. I just don't know what we're going to do."
Even in the unseasonable sunshine and hot temperatures, Carla Morey, of the Friends of the Library, was setting up an information table along Highway 62. Before she could attach streamers and a "Honk If You Love Libraries" sign to the table, passing automobiles began to toot their horns in support.
The four Persson children, ages 5 to 11, suddenly appeared, all carrying their own homemade picket sign.
The children also had made elaborate handwritten cards for "our favorite librarians," and Ryan, the oldest and the only boy, had included a $2 donation.
"I don't have much money," he had written, "but this is for my library."
"It was all their idea," said their mother, Lauran Persson. "They're homeschooled and they love the library. They wanted to protest."
The Shady Cove Library opened as part of the Jackson County Library system right after World War II with only four shelves of books. Over the years it moved through three different buildings, finally settling in the current location along Highway 62 in 1979.
In May of last year the library moved into a tiny temporary location while waiting for expansion of the current building, under the $38.9 million library bond measure approved by voters in May 2000.
The renovation has been delayed and it may be summer before the bidding process begins again. Except for the Phoenix and Shady Cove branches, all other county libraries have been completed.
The last open hour became a community gathering with phones ringing and a steady stream of well wishers.
By closing time, returned books had filled the shelves and were overflowing onto tables and carts.
At 5 o'clock, Rickerd locked the door.
"This is all new territory for us," she said. "There just isn't a manual on how to close a library."
Bill Miller is a freelance writer living in Shady Cove. Reach him at email@example.com.