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Tiny library honors voracious reader

Kathy Aney

East Oregonian

Published on August 10, 2017 6:25PM

Last changed on August 10, 2017 9:41PM

Kimbra Cook, Carolyn Frasier and Scott Fairley gather around a little library they placed in Cook and Fairley’s front yard to honor Roberta Anderson.

Staff photo by Kathy Aney

Kimbra Cook, Carolyn Frasier and Scott Fairley gather around a little library they placed in Cook and Fairley’s front yard to honor Roberta Anderson.

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After her death in 2015, Roberta Anderson’s family members wracked their brains for a good way to honor the family matriarch.

Anderson, who died at age 103, was a force.

She earned undergraduate and graduate degrees at Washington State College (now University). After her husband, Fred Frasier, died of Lou Gehrig’s disease, the widow and single mother of three taught courses in child development at her alma mater and eventually became department head. Her daughter, Carolyn Frasier, remembers being the only kid in school with a working mom.

Anderson married again on her 60th birthday to Rictor Anderson, who died of cancer three years later.

After hitting 100 years, the centenarian stayed sharp, talking politics and playing pinochle. She walked a mile each day using her wheeled walker and stayed active in the Pendleton Friends of Lesbians and Gays to honor a grandson who is gay. Education was important to Anderson. Shortly before she died, she cast her vote in favor of a school bond measure from her hospital bed.

She read voraciously.

It was that latter quality that sparked the idea of how to honor Anderson. A recently installed tiny library now sits under two towering linden trees in the North Hill front yard of her grandson, Pendleton City Councilman Scott Fairley, and his wife, Kimbra Cook. The constantly fluctuating collection of 25-or-so books is available to anyone who stops by the yard at 115 N.W. Eighth St. No library card is required. If you see a book you’d like to read, take it. Replace it with another. Or not.

“There are no rules at this library,” said Fairley, who misses talking politics with his grandmother and getting soundly beaten by her in pinochle.

Two local authors who live on the block, Sarah Woodbury and Toni Devine, placed some of their own books inside the wooden compartment with front-facing doors.

Built by son-in-law John Mitchell in his Seattle woodshop, the library is a replica of the Fairview schoolhouse, which was built on land donated by Anderson’s father near where the family lived in Clyde, Washington. Robert Cline only attended school through eighth grade, but championed education, said Frasier.

“He donated farmland to erect the Fairview School in 1902,” Frasier said. “Throughout their lives, my grandparents made whatever sacrifices were necessary to see that their five children had the advantages of an education.”

The hilltop school finally sagged and fell down, succumbing to the weather. In 1994, Anderson and her four siblings had a replica of the school built at the site honoring their parents’ dedication to education.

The idea of modeling the little library after the school and placing it in Fairley and Cook’s front yard seemed like a natural. Cook, formerly children’s librarian at the Pendleton Public Library, was recently hired to run the library at Washington Elementary School.

Cook said the little library is already getting use. One day, she was thrilled to see her middle school librarian Lorna Waltz checking it out and adding a few books.

“People stop all the time to look,” Cook said, “but that was the biggest thrill.”

She thinks the library is a perfect tribute to Roberta Anderson.

“She was such a big proponent of community,” Cook said. “A neighborhood library – it doesn’t get any more basic than that.”

Anderson’s little library, with a plaque denoting it as part of LittleFreeLibrary.org, is one of about 50,000 Little Free Libraries worldwide.


Contact Kathy Aney at kaney@eastoregonian.com or call 541-966-0810.


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