The library in our town has been closed for 5 months. Actually, all 13 libraries in our county closed their doors on April 7th due to lack of funding. It makes me sick to my stomach to think about. And I think about it a lot. Talking to my friend Trace tonight, I was reminded that some folks like to say that they are closed because there are no more big trees around here to cut down. Large federal timber sales are what funded the libraries in our small, rural county for years. But it's hard not to notice that lots of public services are paying the price nationwide because our country is at war. War is expensive. It's just that most towns still have a free public space where people and kids and families can hang out and borrow books. In Ashland, Oregon, we don't.
I read to my kids most nights before bed. We snuggle up on the couch or one of our beds and transport ourselves to distant lands for 45 minutes or an hour. It is sacred time. We all look forward to it. My middle daughter Macy is 9. At the HSC homeschooling conference last month, she was thrilled to buy a set of American Girl chapter books at the Recycled Resource Room. She happens to have the doll named Molly and this set is all about Molly. One of the books we're reading aloud is Molly Learns a Lesson. The American Girl series takes a period in American history and creates a storyline starring the doll of that era. Molly is an 8 year old during World War 2. Her mother works long hours at the factory to support the "war effort". Her father is a military doctor treating soldiers overseas. We just got to the part in the book where Molly is bummed out because her rubber boots no longer fit. It's raining out and God forbid you would go out of doors in regular shoes! She is forced to wear her older brother's ugly black rubber boots because the stores are no longer selling boots. All the rubber in America is being used to make things like life rafts and life preservers needed by soldiers fighting in the war.
I stopped reading and put the book down. "What Mom?" asked Macy. "Why did you stop?" I explained that it was really hard for me to read a story about people who were not outraged at the realities of war. It made me uncomfortable to think about a world (even a fictional one) where families non-chalantly discuss the sacrifices that folks at home must make in order to support the war effort. I explained for the millionth time that I don't support any efforts of any war and that it's just one of those things I will never, ever get. As I finished reading the chapter I realized that 40 years later, not a whole lot has changed. Our soldiers are still fighting battles overseas. We're still making sacrifices here at home for the war effort. Molly will always remember the year 1944 as the year she had to go without new red rubber boots. Macy will forever remember the year 2007 as the year she had to go without a public library.