TALENT — Vowing that they won't let citizens or town officials forget the closed library, a group of local residents are staging a "read-in" every Thursday in front of the city complex, bringing attention to the problem and talking with residents about how it can be fixed.
At the same time, Talent's idled librarian, Laurel Prchal, holds her summer reading program for children on a blanket at the skate park across the street.
The supporters, most of them members of the Talent Friends of the Library, sit in front of the Community Center from 10 to 11 on Thursdays bringing neighbors up to date on the progress of library reopening, entertaining suggestions on strategies and sharing stories on life without libraries, said Betty Smith, who worked at the library for 35 years.
"Some people come up, practically in tears, and say they're desperate to have it open. They tell us stories about how they miss it," said Patricia Remencuis, president of Talent Friends of the Library and a participant in the read-ins. "We have to keep working on it. We're not going to give up till it's open. We let people know we're seriously, actively doing everything we can to make that happen."
Members say they're following a protest model established at civil rights sit-ins of a half century ago, but they also try to provide a service by handing out donated books to citizens on the honor system to bring back when they wish.
The county's 15 libraries closed in April when it became clear that federal subsidies would not continue to cover a shortfall in tax revenue from declining timber harvests in the county.
The summer reading program was once run by the city Parks and Recreation Department, but they gave funds to Prchal to continue the popular event, in both English and Spanish, along with sing-alongs and finger play, she said.
"They love it. They're thrilled. And it helps keep the library in everyone's focus," Prchal said.
Nearby Butterfly House, a day care center, brings 15 kids to the event and teacher Lauren Bell, notes,
"It's been great for us. The kids love being outside and hearing the stories."
Talent Councilman Bob Wilson, a retired librarian, joined the read-in, noting "it draws the consciousness of the public to the fact that there are supporters of the library and we're working on it."
Judging by the numbers of people waving, honking and shouting their approval — as well as those in Talent who voted for libraries in the last two elections — Wilson is convinced Talent residents in November will approve a proposed utility surcharge to reopen Talent's branch library.
Smith said there have been no expressions of opposition from passers-by during the two months of demonstrations.
"We want to quietly provide a presence there. We don't get to read much because people stop and talk to us. They're glad we're there. The Grotto (a restaurant across the street) brought us lunch on the house one day," said resident Judy Jordan.
The read-in, she said, was one of three strategies chosen by the Friends of the Library. The other two are to attend all City Council meetings and to start a summer reading program. All three goals have been achieved and the council last month voted to put the surcharge on the ballot.
John Darling is a freelance writer living in Ashland. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.