Library closes

By Robert Plain
Ashland Daily Tidings


Five o’clock came, and time ran out for the Jackson County Library System. But a group of teary-eyed school children weren’t quite ready to leave the Ashland Branch at closing.

And they didn’t.

“We’re trying to send a powerful message,” said 11-year-old Bronson Samel-Garloff.

“The least we can do is show people it’s really closing,” said Jasper Reynolds.

“It’s not just a sad day for us,” said Aubyn Heglie, age 10. “It’s a sad day for the whole country.”

Samel-Garloff, Reynolds and Heglie were three of more than 30 Ashland children who staged a sit-in to commemorate the last day citizens could use local libraries, which closed due to Jackson County and the federal government’s inability to find a funding source.

Ashland City Councilor Eric Navickas, who stayed in the library with the group of kids, called it, “probably one of the saddest days in Ashland’s history.”

Many of the Ashland librarians — as well as parents and other supporters — stayed in the library to show support for the children’s efforts.

“We’ve been tipped off that something is going to happen with the children,” said Pamela Bernadi, who lost her job of 14 years when the libraries closed down. “We want to be here to support them. They have been so supportive of us.”

The group — more than 50 strong — stayed in the library until Ashland Police Sergeant Malcus Williams was dispatched to clear them out. Many more were outside waiting to applaud the kids as they were led out.

“You’re teaching a lot today,” Williams told the children, before asking them to leave. “Miracles happen because of people like you who stood up for what you know is right.”

Before he escorted the group of children out, he agreed to read them one last story book.

“The whole thing is just surreal,” said South Region Manager of the library system Anne Billeter. “Libraries are a cornerstone of democracy. I think if you asked, very few people ever thought something like this could happen.”

She said the closure of the Jackson County Library System is the largest ever in the history of the United States.

“I have a real pit in my stomach,” said Ashland librarian Amy Blossom, whose eyes filled with tears while she spoke. Blossom, along with more than 100 other Jackson County library employees, will file for unemployment as a result of losing their jobs.

But she and other employees won’t stop working for the libraries just because their jobs are going away. They will continue to campaign for the county-wide levy that, if passed with a double majority, would re-open the now-shuttered libraries.

“It’s very important to get people aware of the May 15 levy,” Blossom said. “This will support our libraries.”

Blossom said some people are giving up hope that Congress will reinstate the federal funds that once supported local libraries because it is tied in with funding for the War in Iraq, a bill that President George Bush vowed to veto because it also sets a timetable for troop withdrawal.

“There is confusion about the hope for the federal funding,” Blossom said. “No one knows if or when it will come. We are counting on the local tax levy.”

Staff writer Robert Plain can be reached at 482-3456 x. 226 or [email protected].

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