Taxes support most public libraries in the United States—including their buildings, employees, equipment and collections. Not so the Cannon Beach Library, a member-owned nonprofit organization with a single part-time office manager and about 45 volunteers.
This lone office manager and these local and visiting volunteers open the doors; answer questions from visitors; provide access to computers and the internet; provide copy services; offer space to reading and study groups; develop children’s programs; catalog, order and shelve current fiction and nonfiction; and arrange presentations by bestselling pacific northwest authors.
The lone parttime office manager and many visiting and local volunteers also develop fundraising events to finance services on which Cannon Beach residents and visitors depend. The plague years have made maintaining library services more difficult than was once the case, but gradually the library has expanded the number of days and hours it safely serves patrons.
This slow return to normal continues. At its June Library Board meeting, members discussed increasing the number of days open each week from four to five. This is under discussion because recently several talented new residents have joined existing library desk volunteers.
Several new residents have also heard the library’s call for volunteers to manage the Fourth of July Used Book Sale, which promises a record number of popular lightly used books on sale at bargain prices from Friday, July 1, through Sunday, July 3, from 10 am to 5 pm and on Monday, July 4, from 10 am to 4 pm
To encourage buyers, the library is offering a free fourth book with every three similarly priced books purchased; and, on Monday, July 4, everyone can fill provided paper bags with books for $5 a bag.
The library still needs residents and visitors to volunteer to work this epic book sale and become active members of the library community. This is a great opportunity to make lasting friends in Cannon Beach and leave feeling work has never been this much fun.
The library also invites crafters to donate examples of their work to the library’s Fall Festival, another fundraising event, scheduled for September, starting Labor Day weekend.
To volunteer to work a few hours on the July Fourth weekend or to donate homemade craft and art items for the Fall Festival, please do so by stopping by the library, calling the library (503-436-1391) or emailing info@cannonbeachlibrary. org and leaving name and contact information.
On Wednesday, July 20, at 7 pm, Phyllis Bernt will lead members of Cannon Beach Reads in a Zoom discussion of “A Death in the Family” by James Agee, who died in 1955, two years before his classic depiction of the impact of an unanticipated death on remaining family members.
Agee’s beautifully written novel, based on Agee’s own experience, received the Pulitzer Prize in 1955. Agee is equally praised for “Let Us Now Praise Famous Men,” a nonfiction study of sharecroppers in the American South, documented with photographs by Walker Evans.
Speaking of books. The Cannon Beach Library added 21 new titles to the collection in May. Seven novels, seven mysteries and seven nonfiction books have joined the library’s green-dot shelves containing recently published items teasing summer patterns.
New novels added include “The Homewreckers” by Mary Kay Andrews, “Trust” by Hernan Diaz, “The Sign for Home” by Blair Fell, “Woman, Eating: A Literary Vampire Novel” by Claire Kohda, “The Book Woman’s Daughter” by Kim Michele Richardson, “The Good Left Undone” by Adriana Trigiani and “Remarkably Bright Creatures” by Shelby Van Pelt.
New Mysteries added include “The Lioness” by Chris Bohjalian, “Every Cloak Rolled in Blood” by James Lee Burke, “The Murder of Mr. Wickham” by Claudia Gray, “The Bangalore Detectives Club,” by Harini Nagendra, “Overboard” by Sara Paretsky, “The Investigator” by John Sandford and “The Love of My Life” by Rosie Walsh.
New non-fiction titles added are “The Mind and the Moon: My Brother’s Story, the Science of Our Brains, and the Search for Our Psyches” by Daniel Bergner, “Slaves for Peanuts: A Story of Conquest, Liberation, and a Crop that Changed History” by Jori Lewis and “Embrace Fearlessly the Burning World” by Barry Lopez.
Other new nonfiction books include “The Flag, the Cross, and the Station Wagon: A Graying American Looks Back at His Suburban Boyhood and Wonders What the Hell Happened” by Bill McKibben, “Overdue: Reckoning with the Public Library” by Amanda Oliver, “Left on Tenth: A Second Chance at Life” by Delia Ephron and “South to America: A Journey Below the Mason-Dixon to Understand the Soul of a Nation” by Imani Perry.
I recently read a timely memoir by a critic of policing practices in Portland, which was added to the library collection this spring.
“This Is Not for You: An Activist’s Journey of Resistance and Resilience,” by Portland photojournalist and community-policing advocate Richard Brown and co-author Brian Benson, deserves greater notice.
“This Is Not for You” focuses on Brown’s long career in the Air Force as a radio and missile technician from the time he left Harlem until he retired with a military pension and settled in Albina, the historic Black community in North and Northeast Portland before it was gentrified into an upscale sports motel, bar and entertainment center.
Brown learned about successful activism while in the Air Force, mostly learned that success in life, really in anything, requires discipline, a willingness to stick to achieving goals. An obviously gifted technician, he found himself training others in the repair of essential communication systems as he watched subordinates receive promotions while his supervisors overlooked his own merit.
Brown learned to speak up for himself, though, ultimately receiving promotion to sergeant and supervisory positions, including transfers to Clark Air Base near Angeles City in the Philippines, to Ramstein Base in Germany, to Grand Forks, North Dakota, and finally to McChord Air Force Base near Tacoma for his final two years before retiring in Portland.
Brown points to overt racism at Ramstein as causing his first serious activism. He joined with other Black airmen to form the Black Action Committee as a social group that soon held weekly meetings and study groups to discuss books on race, racism and Black history. This pushed the base commander to create a civil rights committee that held training sessions and investigations of race-related offenses. Brown was asked to serve on this committee.
This became a familiar pattern for Brown in Portland. He became the photographer for the Portland Observer, a Black newspaper. I have photographed meetings, community events, business openings, street scenes, weddings and so forth.
Brown also attended meetings of the Black United Front and found half of his photographs for the Portland Observer were related to issues involving the Front. Gradually he became a regular participant in the group’s meetings and protest activities, especially the divestiture movement targeting apartheid South Africa.
During these protests, the Front regularly received death threats. To be safe the group cooperated with Portland Police, informing them of who was willing to be peacefully arrested during protests of the South African consulate. Portland Police would accompany the protesters to the consulate, make peaceful arrests and negotiate the same procedure for the Front’s next protest.
Margaret Carter became, in 1984, the first Black woman elected to the Oregon House of Representatives, where she managed to get divestiture legislation passed that Governor Vic Atiyeh then vetoed. It became law, however, three years later.
Brown’s involvement in the Front, omnipresent camera and witnessing of police interactions with Black residents during nightly ride-alongs with police served to place him between cops and Black citizens. Still recognized throughout the city as the Picture Man, Brown was also viewed as a fair witness by a growing number of police and community leaders.
This explains why Goose Hallow Inn owner and Portland Mayor Bud Clark in 1990 asked Brown to serve as his representative when Police Chief Tom Potter endorsed community policing by establishing his Chief’s Forum. The forum facilitated genuine and critical conversations about law enforcement practices and policies among Brown, other civilians and police leadership.
For Brown the 1990s and early 2000s—the years Tom Potter and Charles Moose were chiefs of police and Tom Potter and Vera Katz were mayors—represented the high point in police relations with Portland residents, including those in the Black community.
Brown’s memoir provides a context for Portland’s recent Black Lives Matter protests and controversial calls for defunding and demilitarizing police.