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Literary Oasis in the Walla Walla Valley--The Milton-Freewater Public Library
Child Prodigy Adora Svitak at the Milton-Freewater Library
There is no public library in College Place, Washington.
The closest public library is in Walla Walla, a town just three miles to the east.
Walla Walla charges the residents of College Place $68 for an annual library card. College Place refuses to subsidize the use of the Walla Walla Public Library for its residents.
I think it's a crying shame that neither jurisdiction enters into a cooperative venture for the good of the people.
So, with backpack stuffed with laptop, camera, notebooks, pens, several pairs of eyeglasses (prescription, reading, and sunshades), and some snacks and a bottle of Fuze (I love the strawberry guava flavor), I set about to do what any conscientious objector would be compelled to do.
I left the state of Washington. Literally.
I headed on over to the Oregon town just south of the border fondly nicknamed MUDDY- FROGWATER by the locals.
Milton-Freewater, Oregon, is a patch quilt of two towns that comprise, surprisingly, a total area of about 2 square miles. The population was a little over 6000 during the 2000 census, so I'm going to unofficially attribute this town as hosting about 7000 people at this time. (Hey, there's not much going on in this town, and I mean that in the nicest way, so what would YOU do for fun and recreation? I'm just saying...)
At the local College Place Walmart Supercenter, I caught a minibus ($1 fare each way) at 9:27 AM and enjoyed the short ride over into Oregon.
The border between the two states is a country road appropriately named Stateline Road.
In the southeast corner of the intersection is a convenience store owned and operated by a young man from India. I have stopped here for restroom breaks during my 10-mile walks to and from Oregon and have enjoyed some nice chats with him.
To the west stands a large brown building, surrounded by acres of corn fields and rambling pasture land. This is the Stateline Seventh-Day Adventist Church, perhaps the fourth largest church of its denomination in the Walla Walla Valley.
A few residences, lots of farm land, and the occasional old houses and barns that just beg to be included in some up and coming photographer's repertoire, pepper both sides of Highway 12 as the drive south continues.
About three or four gas stations are located along this stretch. More often than not, the price of gas is cheaper in Oregon than it is in Washington, and since my wife and I live close to the stateline, we usually buy gas from one of the Shell stations here. What I like about Oregon gas stations is that they're a throwback to the good old days when the attendants pumped the gas, washed the windshields, and serviced your car. Most, if not all, Oregon gas stations serve up this consumer courtesy. Personally, I like it!
Another Adventist church, a Safeway, a couple of banks, a hardware store, and some fast food restaurants later, I finally arrived at the Milton-Freewater Public Library.
It is a surprisingly beautiful yet downplayed building, approximately two-thirds the height of its next-door neighbor, the Milton-Freewater City Hall.
Raised potted plants adorn the walkways along the perimeter. Well-manicured plants and flowers form a cosmetic complement to the library.
Across the street, to the south, is a handsome white building with a turn of the century kind of look--a New England throwback, if you will. It's the kind of church that a small town would typically be built around. It conjured up childhood television memories of Mayberry and Little House on the Prairie.
When I entered the library, I was delighted to see just how much planning, care, and--yes!--budget had gone into its construction.
It is a two-story building. On the first floor, there is a large children's area in one corner. The other areas are designated for audiovisual materials and all of the non-fiction items. A few computers, more than enough to service the amount of people I have observed over the past couple of days, are located in the middle of the floor. There is an ample amount of tables and chairs for reading, studying, and/or working on laptops.
There is nice carpeting throughout, even on the stairs and landing areas. The library also has at least two private study rooms adjacent to the office area behind the rotunda.
What's especially delightful to me is the fact that I was only charged $35 for an annual library card. Sure, I'm used to the free services I enjoyed when I used to live in the Seattle area, and I still would prefer my favorite four letter word that starts with F (hooray for FREE!) any day of the week. Still, at less than $3 a month, given the huge amount of reading, research, and writing that I do, this was a considerable bargain.
And a far cry from the $68 fee that the Walla Walla Public Library is charging. Again, I'm just saying...
The upstairs portion is where I love to hang out in this library. I have spent the better portion of this morning in the upstairs room diligently fine-tuning a final draft of this article.
I'm moved to say that the atmosphere in this library, contrary to its urban Seattle and King County counterparts, is refreshingly quiet, peaceful, laid back, and exceptionally conducive to concentration, imagination, word and phrase capturing, visualization, creativity--all vital elements of the writing process.
Frankly, I consider this library to be a diamond in the rough. If there is anything regrettable about this experience, it has been disturbingly little used in the two days I've been here. Granted, I've only spent approximately three hours in here on two back-to-back days. And it may be purely a per capita phenomenon due to a very small population.
Or, could it be a more global effect of the success of Kindle, Nook, and other high tech gadgets?
As a writer, give me old-fashioned. Give me the smell and feel and poetry of words on paper. Give me a nice physical package to wrap it all up in. No, not just the hardbound and paperback covers. I'm referring to...
...this warm, wonderful, and inviting library--an innovative mixture of old school and contemporary.