Now you know there's a conspiracy going around here about the library. Every week there's two or three or four items in the paper, there are people waving signs on the street corner, a "honk your horn if you love the Dewey Decimal System" kind of thing - it's obvious that the library wants something.

And what could it be except money.

In these anxious times when macaroni alternates with potatoes as the main course (and that's on payday when it replaces slug soup and fermented dandelions); when my wife and I exchange underwear (OK, that's a different story); when mad desperate men chase after seagulls with a fork and a bottle of ketchup; when your aunt mixes hot water with bird poop and calls it tea ... that's right, the library wants money.

And they disguise it all very cleverly ... "Just pennies on the dollar" ... "Send us your change" ... "Sell your children for medical experiments" ... They make it sound like nothing at all, about as important as taking out the garbage (this is, if you still have enough money to make garbage).

I'm not stupid. I know all those pennies add up to dollars, thousands for sure, maybe millions, I don't know. I don't even know what a book costs these days, a magazine, a newspaper (you can't even read a newspaper in my house, too many fish gut stains on them). I don't even know what it costs to pay the electricity in a library. Candles work fine for me (and if we can't afford candles, my wife and I hold up matches and look at things very quickly). I don't even know why they need toilet paper, I mean really with all those books around!

But I can tell you this one thing. There are too many things to know these days; our kids have to hurry every day of their lives to get ready for their version of the world. There are never too many books for things like that. It's not Howdy Doody Time anymore; things are complicated!

The library means opportunity. Sure I'm a fisherman, I'm a logger, but maybe my kid can have something with a better future if I can only give him the tools; maybe I can get Social Security forms for my mother, maybe there's a mystery book so I can have an adventure, maybe there's a picture book of faraway places so I can dream ...

There's this one thing for us old guys to keep in mind. The world is changing, and it's being done without our permission. There's no one around to say, "get ready, go!" If we don't get started right away then we'll be left behind, (which is fine for me, I've had my turn) but it's not fair for me to hold anybody else back.

For the children, life is a time of challenge and adventure, a search for passion, a quest for completeness. If we give our children anything less, then we, not just as parents but as citizens, have not done all we can to make our community their home.

And should you not believe in the children, if their lives are so distant from yours, if you can only believe in yourself ... then consider how much more vibrant a town can be when people of every age can benefit, can learn, can improve their lives. At my age I know how important it is to keep the mind moving.

I (for one) don't want more, I want better. I want the few things that we do to be done well. Why can't we have a better library, a bigger library, a more complete, more thorough library? What better thing can we get for this small amount of money they're asking for?

This is often a cold, gray place in winter, a harsh world without an easy friend. And when the darkness settles in upon the land, when the rain falls with such a raging anger, when you wonder where the animals will sleep, when you worry about the homeless huddled in the wind ... the world becomes a lonely place and you swear there is no more light left in the world ... it's right then I look out between the wiper blades and see the light of the library, blurry in the rain on my windshield.

If I use the library every day ... if I never use it at all ... I will always know that the library is the core of a town. There is a post office, there is a grocery store, a church ... there is a library.

Wayne Downing

Ocean Park

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