GRAND RONDE — Amelie Redman drives 6.7 miles every Monday from her home in Willamina to open the Grand Ronde Library at noon. Sometimes people actually come in during its three-hour open window to pick up or drop off books. Redman never expects them, but she said she’s always happy to see them. If they do check out a book, they don’t need a library card.
All they need to do is write their name and address in a spiral notebook.
“We’re not what you would call really strict about paperwork around here,” Redman said.
It is, in fact, the same spiral notebook Harriett House used to check out the very first book 62 years ago this month — on Oct. 15, 1958, to be precise. And the notebook is far from full. Another 60 years or so, and some future librarian might need to buy a new notebook.
Redman said she’s fine for now.
The library has no connection to the Confederated Tribes of Grand Ronde. Members of the Grand Ronde Women’s Club started the library in the small building that once housed the Bank of Grand Ronde.
Elsie Werth, another Willamina resident, served as the librarian until about 2013. Although Monday afternoons can be a mite lonely, Redman said she couldn’t bear the thought of no one being there to tend the books.
“I’m keeping the spirit of the Grand Ronde Women’s Club alive,” said Redman, 78.
Sarah Frost, the manager of the nearby Willamina Public Library, said it warms her heart to see Redman and the Women’s Club soldiering forth at a time when so many forces seem allied against books, libraries and reading.
“Having the library in Grand Ronde is so important for their community and ours,” said Frost.
The library offers few amenities. There are no computers, no guest authors, no gift shops. Redman said the library does offer electricity — just no heating other than an old black cast-iron stove.
“Unlike others, we’re the true meaning of conservative,” Redman said.
Although the library technically closes at 4 p.m., she said closing time is really up for grabs.
“I stay open as long as there are people here,” Redman said. “I don’t like turning people away. There’s this one elderly lady who has trouble getting here. I’m not going to shuffle her out the door.”
The library is also open by appointment. Making one, however, can be tricky. Not only does the library not have a computer, it also doesn’t have a phone number. There’s also no website, email address or Facebook page.
People who want appointments generally have to take the time to write a note and leave it on the door. Redman said she likes the fact that people are forced to write.
“We’re trying to promote literacy here,” she said.
The library’s original books came primarily from Women’s Club members. Other books have just been donated over the years. The club continues to meet at the library.
“We have three members,” Redman said.
Grand Ronde has more than one library. The Confederated Tribes of Grand Ronde operate a tribal library at its education center, just down the road. It more closely resembles a regular public library, featuring expanded hours and all the latest technology.
The tiny library at 8559 Grand Ronde Road is out of date even by 1958 standards. The Dewey Decimal System is something that happened to other people. Books are stacked every which way, however they can be wedged in. They even cover the front right window.
Visitors might find the library even more perplexing these days. It inherited some of the leftover shelving and other material from a renovation of the Willamina Public Library earlier this year, but not everything has been put in place yet.
“The library is in a chaotic state right now,” Redman said.
Frost said she was glad to help the library.
“I just was communicating through multiple channels that I was looking to give our used bookcases away to those who needed them,” she said. “I was so happy that they reached out and could put those shelves to good use. Nothing feels better than to help another library out.”
Libraries must constantly help each other, said Frost.
“We have been able to benefit from the generosity of other libraries along the way, too,” she said.
The Grand Ronde Library may be in a chaotic state right now, Redman said, but the whole world is in a chaotic state right now. Then again, she added, that’s nothing new. One of the things she loves about being surrounded by books is that they serve as a constant reminder that human nature never truly changes.
“I look back at all the old books, stories of people yelling and screaming at one another,” Redman said. “It’s still the same. I’m surprised how the wheel of time spins around to the same spot.”
A lifetime of reading has led Redman to her own theory of human psychology.
“It’s my A.B. Theory,” she said. “You can be an angel, or you can be a butthead. It’s your choice.”
When people are in Redman’s library, they should choose wisely,
“I don’t mind calling people buttheads when they’re acting like buttheads,” she said.