Make the McKenzie Connection!


Blue town reminiscences

Step four in a dream - A true public library

River Reflections, Volume 6, Issue 26

February 24, 1984

By Jacquie Long

From a few stacks of books in her living room to shelves in a small brown shack, and finally, to a large two-room collection, Mrs. O’Brien’s Blue River Library continues to grow and is now known nationally. Mrs. O’Brien and her husband, Orel, saw the need for a library in the McKenzie River area more than a decade ago. They began their dream of building one in 1970. After Mr. O’Brien’s death in 1971, Mrs. O’Brien continued working on that dream alone.

She calls the library’s present stage, with the recent addition to the building, “the fourth step of my dream.” The first three steps of the dream were the library’s previous stages, in her home, in the brown shack, and then in a new building before the new addition.

Mrs. O’Brien hopes to add a fifth step to her dream someday.

“But that’s as far as I go!” she laughs.

The Blue River Library is operated in a unique way. There are no late fines, no due dates, and no membership fees.

“I tell people just to bring the books back when they’ve finished, and it works very well,” said Mrs. O’Brien.

“And the library is always open, whether I’m around or not,” she added.

Without money from such things as late fines, the library exists solely through donations. Mrs. O’Brien said the library has received books from all over the United States, and even one box from Hanoi.

“The books continue to come in,” she said, “and I’m getting second and third boxes from people who have contributed earlier.”

“Then there’s more publicity about the library, and so other people send in books, which brings more publicity. It’s really a growing thing. As the number of books increases, so does the interest,” she said.

The library includes some very unusual, rare, and often expensive books. Mrs. O’Brien keeps these books with all the others, on the shelves, rather than in an enclosed case.

“People should be able to read these books: that’s why they were donated to the library,” she said, “and it’s gratifying to me that people are willing to put them here for others to use.”

“Once I saw a man coming down the library steps, and I never saw anyone smiling any more than he did. He said he was so thrilled at what he’d found and I asked why.”

“He held out a book that looked no different from the rest, and he said he and his wife had searched for years for that book. They’d been told the only copy was in Wales, and that copy was under glass.”

“I won’t tell anyone what that book is now, because he says it’s invaluable. He asked me if I was going to leave it on the shelf and I said ‘Yes,’ you’re the only one who knows which one it is!”

“These are the things that make this a very interesting library,” she added.

Mrs. O’Brien’s favorite book was donated to the library last summer.

The volume is titled Crater Lake and Its Legend, by Albert Cooper Allen. It is a completely handmade book, bound in deep blue silk, “as close to the color of Crater Lake as the author could find.”

“To me, this is the most valuable book in the library, not for its monetary worth, but for its history,” said Mrs. O’Brien.

Along with her library work, Mrs. O’Brien is a tax consultant, and the money from that work goes to the library also.

When she finds free time, quiltmaking is her hobby. She is working on several quilts recently. including one to be donated to the Blue River Fire Department for a raffle.

Mrs. O’Brien first came to Blue River in 1925, on the auto stage driven by Percy O’Brien, her husband’s brother.

She came from Aurora, Oregon, where she left to become one of the two teachers at the Blue River School then, and had a classroom of 13 students.

She taught there for three years before her marriage, then became a school clerk for the district until her retirement in 1968.

“I’ve always been interested in books though, and the library gives me a wonderful opportunity to look at them.”


Reader Comments(0)