This is truly one for the books.
June Knudson, Heather Staten and Arthur Babitz were honored Friday in Salem by the Oregon Library Association.
Babitz and Staten were named Oregon Library Supporters of the Year and Knudson received the Distinguished Librarian Award from the Association.
Staten, a chef and mother of two, and Babitz, who is Hood River mayor but employed as an engineer, advocated for the library as a citizen.
Knudson was the longtime library director until retiring in June 2010 when the county closed the library.
The honors look ahead while also looking back. Knudson was for years the face of the library, its staunchest and sometimes fieriest supporter.
In letter nominating Knudson, she was quoted this way: "What kept me in Hood River for all these years is that I love the idea of a community library. Everybody felt welcome to approach me with their needs or ideas and people would say, 'June, have you got a minute?'… the library is about one-to-one service between the librarian and the person who asks."
Knudson guided the library through three tough years of steady cutbacks in 2007-10, maintaining a high level of service quality despite continually shrinking resources for paying staff and providing programs. Finally, a year ago, she stepped down, working hard right to the end but feeling a personal loss with the closure of the library.
As the Hood River County Library Foundation stated in its letter of nomination, Staten, a volunteer and president of Save Our Library, and Babitz "were instrumental in the successful passage of the library district measure in November 2010.
"They provided a unique emerging partnership of community organizing and political influence, each doing research, giving information, and continually communicating with others.
"Heather and Arthur led; Heather with 10 different autonomous sub-committees helped build an infrastructure of community volunteers communicating with each other. Arthur, with the Budget Committee, built the Model Budget that could be communicated to everyone …"
When voters approved the library district, it was with the proviso that the library would not open until November 2011. Babitz and Staten are not alone in the effort, but much credit goes to them if the library reopens in July, as it is now expected to do.
Congratulates to Staten and Babitz for their contribution of time and expertise, and to Knudson, for working so long to make the library the kind of place people feel passionate about.