Ashland, in southwestern Oregon, about 20 miles from the California border and 70 miles inland from the coast, has a lot going for it.
It’s set in a scenic valley near forested mountains, the wild Rogue River and only a couple of hours from spectacular Crater Lake. Ashland is home to Southern Oregon University and the city center is on the National Registry of Historic Places. On top of it all, Ashland hosts the popular and (rightly) highly regarded Oregon Shakespeare Festival.
Add to that the fact that its municipal library originated as a Carnegie Library, and Ashland is high on my list of recommended places to visit. Dating from 1912, the building was restored in 2003.
The original Carnegie building is now the Children’s Library.
An undated photo shows the same room, certainly close to the time it originally opened, judging from the style of hat worn by the woman.
She looks as if she belongs in a production of The Music Man, and is regarding the photographer with apparent suspicion. Perhaps she’s dubious about the fact that in another hundred years, some of those reading tables will be occupied by computer terminals used by unsupervised children.
University town; fairly upscale and solid property values; a tourist destination for tens of thousands of visitors attracted by the Shakespeare Festival, university, outdoor activities and the arts: Ashland seems the type of town in which a library would naturally thrive. Yet, in April 2007, Ashland’s and 13 other Jackson County libraries closed due to budget problems, at the time the largest public library closure in U.S. history. Happily, the library reopened about 6 months later and continues to operate. It’s a reminder that our libraries aren’t any more durable than roads, schools or fire departments: They need steady support. Ask anyone you know in the United Kingdom about the sweeping threat to their public libraries, and you’ll know that, yes, the sun can set and dark night fall upon your local library, eliminating people’s free access to books, programs, Internet and things that make a town a community. The lights don’t stay on by themselves.
While you’re in Ashland, don’t fail to cruise Downtown Plaza at the foot of the picturesque and historic Main Street for a drink of healthful, stimulating Natural Lithia Water from the fountain.
I promise it’ll be a sip you long remember. Any Lithia Water fans out there? Leave a comment.
© Brad Nixon 2016