Today is a sad day in Jackson County, Oregon.
Today the public libraries closed.
I heard the story on NPR yesterday, and it actually made me cry. The idea of not having a public library...I just can't imagine it. Especially in Jackson County, home of the Oregon Shakespeare Festival, one of the most amazing cultural events in the world. Technically there's one library left since Southern Oregon University's library is remaining open, and it's evidently quite beautiful. But the federal funding that helped Jackson County keep its public libraries open is tied up in the Iraq spending bill that President Bush is planning to veto, and so there's no money left to keep open the 15 branches. Who knows when they'll reopen. Maybe May. Maybe later.
Even though university libraries are important, they lack one critical area: the children's section. We are lucky to have quite a nice children's section at our library. There's a play area, and puzzles, and pillows, and fish, and all sorts of nice librarians who smile and raise their eyebrows a lot when they talk to you. But, oh! the best thing about our library is the storytime. We love it.
Every Tuesday night we get the girls' in their pajamas and drive over to the library for Family Bedtime Storytime. For thirty minutes we listen to all sorts of wonderful stories and sing exciting songs. Sydney can now sing all the way through the opening song, "Shake My Sillies Out," and even has gotten bold enough to "wiggle her waggles away" in front of all the other kids. For the most part, Jason and I sit and relax while listening to the stories, drinking our Dutch Brother coffees (what a treat! I get a coffee every Tuesday!), and clap and laugh along with the kids.
Last week we heard about bunnies and pigs and chickens. We heard Little Bunny Foo Foo and Cornelius P. Mud, Are You Ready For Bed?, both entertaining. The big hit of the night, however, was The Most Wonderful Egg in the World, which the librarian told with chicken props. I have discovered even more wonderful stories through story time, like our new favorite Llama Llama Red Pajama. The librarian storyteller is wonderful. I love how she interjects her own version into the story a little bit so that the kids understand the pictures better. I love how she opens her eyes wide at the exciting parts. I love how she asks the kids questions as they read through it. And I love that Sydney feels comfortable enough around her to be able to go up and get the hand stamp that all the kids get at the end of story time.
Even though we read a lot to Sydney (she gets at least 30 minutes every night with Jason before bed, and more than twice that from me throughout the day), I think it's important that she gets to go to the library for storytime. The most important thing you can do for your child's developing mind is to read to them, and second to that is having other people read to them. As Strickland Gillilan wrote in "The Reading Mother,"
You may have tangible wealth untold:
Caskets of jewels and coffers of gold.
Richer than I you can never be --
I had a mother who read to me.
I grew up with my dad reading us stories, and my mom taking us to the library. I loved reading, and I loved the library. When I went on to teach I was lucky enough to work at a school who had an amazing librarian. So amazing that when she left I only ended up staying at that school one more year. English teachers need good librarians or their jobs become substantially more difficult.
I'm thankful that Sydney gets to go to the library every Tuesday and listen to stories and check out books and say hi to the fishies (which she does faithfully every week). I wish all kids -- everywhere -- were as lucky as she is. But to have the libraries in my own state close down? It's just so sad it makes me want to drive the four hours down there and read to those kids myself.
Somebody needs to.