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Little library stands in memory of Medford fixture

A Little Free Library was installed last week in honor of Wesley H. Craft outside the Seventh-day Adventist church in east Medford, a fitting tribute to a man who was a familiar presence in the neighborhood for some three decades.

One of the more than 100,000 book-sharing boxes worldwide, Craft’s tribute library is at the corner of the church parking lot near Greenwood Street and Ellendale Drive.

Craft’s usual resting place, known as “Wesley’s spot,” was across the road, close to the Human Bean coffee stand.

Coordinators hope the church parking lot will provide easy access and security for the book stop.

Locals who knew Craft, who was homeless for a long time, said he was quiet but kind, refused to ask for help and spent his days reading books, feeding birds and greeting passersby.

Central Point resident Myron Hauser, who didn’t know Craft personally, was nonetheless happy to install the wood structure with the double metal rooftop and marble shelves for a fellow bookworm. His neighbor, Bob Quillen, was on hand to steady the post and help out where needed.

This was the 12th such library the duo has built in Southern Oregon for the Little Library effort (littlefreelibrary.org). Hauser said Craft’s library had been registered as No. 109,848 in the worldwide network of free library stops since the effort began in 2009.

Owners at Advanced Air and Heating partner with Hauser to donate metalwork for the structures, each one unique in design.

“We’ve done copper and other materials,” said Hauser who, in between libraries, restores old travel trailers. “This one is galvanized. I try to make them all a little different but also so that they’ll last as long as possible,” he said, wiping off the tiny plaque bearing the registration number.

“I saw the article in the paper when they were organizing the little tribute to him, and I love to organize the little free libraries so I was happy to do it.”

Craft, who died April 30, previously lived in Bear Creek Park but moved to Ellendale Road in recent years, sleeping near a local chiropractic office after increased transient campers at the park caused safety concerns.

Friends of Craft were commonly seen dropping off coffees, stacks of books and other supplies, though Craft was known for saying that he had enough to meet his needs. A big proponent of access to books, Hauser’s support for the Little Free Library movement started with his own family.

“My granddaughter has always been a phenomenal reader. I saw an article about little free libraries when she was about 6 or 7, so I showed her and she said, ‘Let’s make one, Papa!’” Hauser said.

“I’ve been making them ever since.”

Hauser has installed libraries at various parks around Central Point, at a handful of local schools, and at the Butte Creek Mill, in memory of its late co-owner Debbie Russell.

“These things are an absolute labor of love. Not only do we get to use some of our tools and do things to be creative, but they make people happy and we hope they encourage reading,” Hauser said.

Quillen said the real tribute to Craft would be seeing families and children enjoying free books in his memory.

“You’ll see. Families and kids will be over here all the time, in summer in particular,” he said.

“They’re just a lot of fun.”

Erika Moore, a neighbor who often visited with Craft, said that providing access to books for neighborhood residents was a heartwarming remembrance.

“I don’t want him forgotten, so this is a great way to remember him,” Moore said. “My daughter can go through her books and put such in there. He was such a great man.”

Reach freelance writer Buffy Pollock at buffyp76@yahoo.com

Wesley Craft, shown feeding birds at his usual east Medford street corner, died in April. He spent his days there reading books and greeting passersby. Submitted photo