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Literary Oasis in the Walla Walla Valley--The Milton-Freewater Public Library

Updated on June 25, 2013
Milton-Freewater Public Library
Milton-Freewater Public Library | Source
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Milton-Freewater Public Library, 8 Southwest 8th Avenue, Milton-Freewater, OR 97862, USA
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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.

Milton-Freewater City Hall
Milton-Freewater City Hall
Dedication to the Oregon Trail Pioneers
Dedication to the Oregon Trail Pioneers
Southern Entrance to the Library
Southern Entrance to the Library
Beautiful Hanging Floral Arrangement
Beautiful Hanging Floral Arrangement
A View Towards the East
A View Towards the East

Raised potted plants adorn the walkways along the perimeter. Well-manicured plants and flowers form a cosmetic complement to the library.

A Lovely Church Across the Street from the Library
A Lovely Church Across the Street from 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.

Church Cornerstone With Appropriate Saying--I AM THE VINE, YE ARE THE BRANCHES
Church Cornerstone With Appropriate Saying--I AM THE VINE, YE ARE THE BRANCHES

When I entered the library, I was delighted to see just how much planning, care, and--yes!--budget had gone into its construction.

Beautiful Vaulted Ceiling in the Foyer
Beautiful Vaulted Ceiling in the Foyer
Fuel for Writing
Fuel for Writing
Attractive Display Case
Attractive Display Case

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.

Librarians' Desk
Librarians' Desk

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.

Vaulted Ceilings as Seen From the  Second Floor
Vaulted Ceilings as Seen From the Second Floor
Magazine Reading Area
Magazine Reading Area
Comfortable Furniture
Comfortable Furniture
View of Main Floor From the 2nd Floor
View of Main Floor From the 2nd Floor
One of the Study Table Cubicles
One of the Study Table Cubicles

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.

Frogs are Popular Mascots Throughout the Milton-Freewater Community
Frogs are Popular Mascots Throughout the Milton-Freewater Community
I love libraries, but I love fishing even more! Thanks for stopping by, my friend!
I love libraries, but I love fishing even more! Thanks for stopping by, my friend!

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  • hawaiianodysseus profile image
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    Hawaiian Odysseus 4 years ago from Southeast Washington state

    Very observant, Angela!

    Hi! Yes, that is indeed a typewriter. I think the library actually placed it there since I don't remember anyone else being around that cubicle during the period of time I was taking photos of the library. Hm, it's already gone the way of the dinosaurs.

    The charging for a library card is certainly a pet peeve of mine. My best guess is that there's some "sibling rivalry" between the city councils of Walla Walla and College Place. I, for one, am not going to reinforce that silliness. It's good to have other options for the time being.

    Thank you for stopping by and sharing your kind comments. Aloha, and have a wonderful weekend!

    Joe

  • quildon profile image

    Angela Joseph 4 years ago from Florida

    Joe, I've never heard of a library anywhere that charges for a library card. That's really new for me. Maybe excusable in a small town like Milton-Freewater, but not in Walla Walla. What do they have against literacy? Oh, BTW, is that a typewriter in the study cubicle? For that alone it's worth a visit. I'd take my grandchildren with me too. Nice hub as always.

  • hawaiianodysseus profile image
    Author

    Hawaiian Odysseus 4 years ago from Southeast Washington state

    Hi, Elias!

    Since I am an out of state resident, I can see the Milton Freewater Library charging me. It was the case of the Walla Walla Public Library charging residents of a town just 3 miles away in the same state and the same county that had me shaking my head. : ) I saw it less as a money raising scheme than a way to keep an entire small town at bay and politically snubbing a rival city council instead of embracing it as a neighbor. Mankind can do such "wondrous" things! Thank you for stopping by, my friend! Aloha!

    Joe

  • Elias Zanetti profile image

    Elias Zanetti 4 years ago from Athens, Greece

    Great story and tour Joe. The library is quite beautiful although the fact they charge for a library card left me stunned. Afterall it's the tax payer's money that fund libraries and should be freely accesible to all.

  • hawaiianodysseus profile image
    Author

    Hawaiian Odysseus 4 years ago from Southeast Washington state

    Hi, Liz!

    The $68 was bad enough, but the year before, they were charging $135 per year to each person not residing in the Walla Walla city limits! Unbelievable! More and more, I'm liking the fact that we get to watch our favorite hustlers and pickers on YouTube for FREE!

    Aloha!

  • Radcliff profile image

    Liz Davis 4 years ago from Hudson, FL

    I've never heard of getting charged for a library card. That's nuts.

    That's a beautiful library, though.

  • hawaiianodysseus profile image
    Author

    Hawaiian Odysseus 4 years ago from Southeast Washington state

    Oh, I miss those days, WND...

    Thank you for reading and commenting on this one. It really is a beautiful library in a town that is very small. It's not too far from three or four thrift stores, so that's a nice area for us to visit every now and then. The County is building a library less than a mile away on the southern edge of my town, so hopefully the city council will help us residents get free library services. Until then, I have to exercise my options carefully and frugally. Take care, and now I'm off to do some serious work!

    Aloha!

    Joe

  • wetnosedogs profile image

    wetnosedogs 4 years ago from Alabama

    Great one, Hawaii. Beautiful pictures. As far as I know, libraries are free here. They were in Wisconsin too. I do miss the service at the gas stations. (There may be just one outside of my town) Life isn't what it used to be.

  • hawaiianodysseus profile image
    Author

    Hawaiian Odysseus 4 years ago from Southeast Washington state

    Hi, Bill!

    Yes, I remember a time when going to the Walla Walla Public Library was free for those of us who live in College Place, just 3-4 miles away. However, I was told that the CP City Council had actually paid so much to Walla Walla, thus enabling the citizens of CP to have "free" services. When the council stopped paying that fee, Walla Walla began charging...a ridiculous amount of $135 a couple of years ago, and, more recently, they cut it in half to $68. It is what it is, and I just have to choose my options carefully. I can go into the WW library and use the WiFi for free; I just can't borrow any books. Oh, well... Thanks for stopping by, Bill, and for your enthusiastic support. Have a great evening! Aloha!

    Joe

  • bdegiulio profile image

    Bill De Giulio 4 years ago from Massachusetts

    Another great story Joe. I also love libraries and do visit ours here often. I'm not familiar with libraries charging a fee? I have not come across that here in western Massachusetts. Perhaps if my town didn't have one and I had to travel to another community it would be different? Anyway, I always love going on your journey's no matter where you take us. Looking forward to your next adventure.

  • hawaiianodysseus profile image
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    Hawaiian Odysseus 4 years ago from Southeast Washington state

    Hi, Maria!

    Sorry! My message response to you must not have taken properly. Since I forgot what I said, I'll start all over again. : )

    Thank you so much for your great feedback. While I would love to be writing out of Hawai'i somewhere, I fear I would be too distracted by the beautiful scenery and fun activities. Not that Washington is a slouch in the tourist attraction category, but there is that special magic and allure of the islands that can't be equaled.

    I do appreciate your continued support and encouragement. Your haiga was absolutely creative and stunning, Maria! I love that understated genius of yours. Aloha!

    Joe

  • hawaiianodysseus profile image
    Author

    Hawaiian Odysseus 4 years ago from Southeast Washington state

    Wow, Bill, you were actually there at the Milton-Freewater Public Library? That's literally minutes away from me...and a little over a couple hours if I had to walk. Ha-ha! What a small world!

    Yeah, I was just mentioning Fahrenheit 451 to Jim (xstatic)...an unnatural overdependence on electronics might make that scenario all the more possible. Yikes! Figuratively, it may already be happening.

    Finally I can mow my lawn...and then, it's writing like a fiend after that. Have a good one, my friend!

    Joe

  • hawaiianodysseus profile image
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    Hawaiian Odysseus 4 years ago from Southeast Washington state

    They say, Karen, that it's a way to pay for library expenses. But in my opinion, it's as asinine as hypothetically asking people in eastern Washington to pay for a bridge across Lake Washington that will primarily be used by residents of the Greater Seattle area. I'm making like Thoreau and refusing to pay the library "poll tax." : )

  • hawaiianodysseus profile image
    Author

    Hawaiian Odysseus 4 years ago from Southeast Washington state

    I love books, Jim! That's why I don't think I'll ever get used to Nook, Kindle, and all the other gadgets. Plus, some of this new technology seems like a prequel to Fahrenheit 451. No, give me a book any day of the year. Plus, it smells better than the electronics. : ) Have a good one, my friend!

    Joe

  • xstatic profile image

    Jim Higgins 4 years ago from Eugene, Oregon

    A wonderfully interesting piece, Joe. I love libraries as well. Your pictures and description of the journey are great too.

    Every few years here in Oregon, we vote against self-serve gasoline. In states where you do serve yourself, it is not cheaper, and having attendants pump the gas employs a few more people also.

  • Karen Hellier profile image

    Karen Hellier 4 years ago from Georgia

    I have NEVER heard of a library charging to have a library card. What is this world coming to??? I am still in shock and so disappointed. The library has always been a place to go for FREE services. Anyway, I love the pictures you used. You are really having a great time with that camera aren't you??? It was fun to see inside the library and I found it quite interesting that the library has a snack machine. Our libraries here in Connecticut are still in the "No food and drink allowed" stage. Anyway, quite an interesting story you tell here. Thanks for sharing your day with us.

  • billybuc profile image

    Bill Holland 4 years ago from Olympia, WA

    I have actually been there, Joe, and I'm with you: I love the smell of books and the serenity of a library. Call me old-fashioned and I will gladly wear that label.

    I can go to work now, buddy. I have absorbed your wisdom and I am at peace with the world.

    Have a great day my friend.

    Aloha,

    bill

  • marcoujor profile image

    Maria Jordan 4 years ago from Jeffersonville PA

    Hi Joe,

    I was entranced all the way through this delightful and adventurous hub, reminded there are two ways to skin a cat!

    I love your conversational writing style, which is so humorous and interesting. Your photography is beautiful and that Froggie is simply the cutest thing!

    Why, oh why, did I still believe you lived in Hawaii?! I need to sharpen my observation abilities...I continue to be so proud of you with your challenge and love that you write in the peacefulness of this literary oasis.

    Voted UP and UABI. Have a glorious day. Hugs, Maria