Food and historical documents shouldn’t be combined

By Dorothy Swart Fleshman December 02, 2013 02:02 pm

There was an article in the Observer newspaper about the variety of activities held at the Cook Memorial Library in La Grande, and I thought it good that they were letting people know what was available there.

Then I read about a particular group’s scheduled meetings held in the Archives room on Tuesdays, and I grimaced since I, with another volunteer, had just resigned our positions as volunteers at the Archives over disagreeing with a change in policy for that room.

A number of folks have urged me to explain my leaving the Archives since I have supported it since its inception. At first I didn’t want to make any waves, but it does seem reasonable that people who have already donated to the Archives should know why I could no longer support one of the library policies and determined my resignation.

Tuesdays had been my two hours there to greet the public wishing information or help in researching local history. 

Other volunteers took individual days to do likewise. 

The rest of the time was left open for the public to come in and look at non-circulating materials during open hours at the library should they not be in need of our help.

We at the Archives, four faithful volunteers without financial support from the City, had made the policy that no food or drink be allowed by the public in the Archives resource room because of the possibility of it being transferred to one of the documents or to the visiting researcher’s own materials. 

This had worked well ... until recently when the “No food or drink” sign on the window was disregarded and the group using the room was served coffee, tea, or juice along with dessert.

When I voiced a protest and tried to explain why we had the policy of no food or drink, I lacked the authority to enforce it, so I felt I had no other alternative than to resign. 

To stay, after promising to protect the donations given by the public, would be against my better judgment.

It is now my understanding that there are no longer any rules and that I should get used to the idea of the new generation. 

When I resigned, another volunteer also chose to resign for the same reasons. We had thought that the Archives were under separate authority than the library proper, but that does not seem to be the case even though the building plans show the two rooms as set aside for Archival use.

There are still two dedicated volunteers at work at the Archives and have been promised more help by the library commission, so I hope that it is true. The Archives has the potential of a fine addition to the city with good public relations and contacts by folks from out of town regarding the past. It is a worthy venture and it would be a shame to lose such a facility over sticky tables and multiple group use.

I apologize to those to whom I can no longer keep my promise. 

Perhaps what was at issue would never come to pass and my worries unnecessary. It may seem a minor point, but it was important to me. 

At my age, I may truly be outdated and perhaps it was time for me to go so that others more progressive could take over the helm.