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Libraries nurture young minds, local ties

I felt as if we'd just committed robbery, and I was somewhat giddy about it.

"We don't have to pay? I asked Mom, walking quickly and glancing over my shoulder.

We'd each left the building on foot with our arms full.

"No. Just return them in two weeks, after we've read them. Then get 10 more!"

By age 6, I knew Mom as a trustworthy person, so I relaxed my pace and walked on, anticipating the treasure trove ahead. I felt rich. We weren't; we were a middle-income family when middle income meant owning one television and one family car, used. Life was simpler.

One benefit of having less stuff to fuss over was that Mom was home. She was available and willing to walk with me past old Mrs. Nagley's house, along a faded, white, picket fence and by the lumberyard to the Roseburg Public Library.

I could choose 10 books and then do it again in two weeks and two weeks after that and on into eternity. When we did our weekly grocery shopping, Mom might spring for one or two books, if she was feeling flush. But 10, with future armloads to anticipate? I wondered what had taken her so long to introduce me to such blissful wonderment. I figured I would eventually read every book in the building — or at least the children's section.

I lugged my hardbound plunder upstairs to the room my big sis, Nancy, and I shared, positioned myself on our bed with the luscious stack of books at my side and proceeded to study them, illustrated page by page and delectable word by word. By the time I entered first grade, I read anything Mrs. McConaghie handed down.

Ever since the philanthropic generosity of Andrew Carnegie, who doled out nearly 1,700 U.S. construction grants for building libraries from 1883-1919, public libraries have maintained a long and valued history. So, if you're thinking, "By golly, I think she's trying to get us to vote in favor of the libraries," you're right. And I normally run from politics.

I have no wiggle room in my budget for frills, but I consider supporting our libraries a wise and affordable (minor) investment as well as a civic responsibility. Libraries serve as a hothouse for learning, with a rich concentration of adventure, discovery and knowledge on every shelf.

Within our ever-expanding age of electronic communication, life can feel like an increasingly solitary road. Meetings at former civic gathering places like granges, co-ops and community halls are rare. The town library is an equalizing stage of opportunity for all and a good place to meet a neighbor or read and relax.

Jackson County is home to several modern and well-maintained branches. They provide everything from computers for job hunters and kids researching reports for school to fun summer and after-school programs for children and informative classes for adults. Their staffs are composed of hard-working and dedicated individuals always ready to help find the answers. I walk to our Eagle Point branch and pick up materials previously ordered online. I use the convenient system regularly to do research for books and articles.

If you haven't visited a library in a while, why not check one out and become a Friend of the Library for a measly $5 annual membership? I figure I may as well ask for the moon at this point. Visit them online at www.jcls.org for more information and see all that's at our fingertips through the Jackson County library system.

I can honestly say the public library helped instill in me a love for the power of words and story. From the primary thrill of signing my name on my very own card, it has played a major part in developing a yen to write. Here's hoping they will continue to inspire and empower dreams for generations to come.

Peggy Dover is a freelance writer who works from a 1900 farmhouse in Eagle Point. Reach her at pcdover@hotmail.com.