Ever since I first learned that I could borrow books, I've been a fan of libraries. Some of the best times of my life have been spent lost among the shelves of the library.
In fact, one of my very first jobs was in a library. While still in elementary school, I was given the job of sorting and stacking books in the old Centerville Grade School library. It was a job that took me twice as long as it should have simply because I felt compelled to read every book I touched.
I've always appreciated the people who pointed me in the direction of the library. My voyage through the library opened doors that continues to feed my imagination..
As a child, I never questioned that library books were there for the borrowing. It never occurred to me that somewhere adults were examining titles and collecting money to purchase more books. Or that somebody had to haggle over the prices of new book shelves and library furniture for my use. It wasn't until I was an adult that I learned of those individuals who felt the call to protect and support libraries.
This past week, I had the opportunity to chat with members of the Sunnyside Public Library board, which has been dismantled following last year's citizen vote for annexation into the Yakima Regional Library System. The local board will be replaced with a friends of the library group which is expected to continue to champion the desires of the local library patrons to the new regional library board.
I visited at length with Sunnyside's Cloe Garrison, who has served on the local library board for more than 40 years. Not only has she served on the local library board, campaigning for the needs of the Sunnyside city library, Garrison served on the county, regional and state library boards at various times during the past four decades.
It was with some sadness she completed her last duties as a local board member, but she and her fellow board members have a lot to be very proud of when it comes to the time they have given to the local library patrons.
During the Tuesday afternoon tea given for the board, which also included Stan Snow, Don Wade, Billie Hilton and John Saras, Garrison recounted some of the past battles the local board waged on behalf of the community's library patrons.
She recalled struggles getting adequate parking spaces for the patrons, including handicapped spots. She also recalled arguing to bring the library into compliance with the American Disabilities Act and to secure amenities such as landscaping to enhance the exterior of the then city-owned building.
Sometimes just getting simple items such as subscriptions to the Wall Street Journal or enough money to pay for the initial hook-up fees for the Internet came down to the persistence of the board, she explained.
But the desire to make the Sunnyside library one of the best community libraries in the Yakima library system has always been the board's goal, Garrison acknowledged.
It's a goal for which I believe Garrison and her fellow board members have not received adequate thanks. Having visited every library in the county, the Sunnyside library is my favorite, hands down, although I do have certain fondness for the little Mabton city library.
But it is the Sunnyside library to which I have turned to on more than one occasion for information. I have always found the local staff, led by head Librarian Kay Saunders, cordial and helpful. I think that is a credit to the Sunnyside Library board, as well as the staff, that Sunnyside's library is such a gem in our community.
It is truly a meeting place in the community for everyone from computer geeks to people wanting help with research to those who are simply encouraging their children to advance their reading skills. The library is the place to be as far as I'm concerned.
While the retiring library board was appointed by various Sunnyside City mayors to act as a liaison between the regional library board and the city council, Garrison and her fellow board members took their responsibilities to mean they represented the library's many users. If fulfilling those responsibilities meant holding weekly used book sales to raise money to purchase extra puzzles or bean bag furniture for the children, the library board stepped up to the plate. Its progressive support of computers in the library and Internet services is to be commended.
As they step down and new regional board members are named, it behooves the community to again thank this dedicated group of volunteers for their combined years of service. My hat's off to the departing board and I look forward to meeting the new friends of the library group.
It's now time for others to step up and help form a new friends of the library group to continue the advocacy of the local library board. After all, it is still the place to be.