Greetings from Pt. Townsend

by Debbie Jahnke

(Editors note: For those have been part of the Skidaway Campus community for only a few years, Rick and Debbie Jahnke were long-time researchers at SkIO. Rick served as interim director in the early 2000s. Debbie was his research coordinator. They retired to Pt. Townsend, Wash. several years ago.)

This time last year, our retired lives didn’t feel so relaxed. We found ourselves in the middle of a ballot measure asking for more than $3M in property taxes to tear down the youngest city-owned building in town, the public library annex, and build in its place a behemoth suited only to the grandiose visions of a select subset of our population.There are substantial unmet needs here; just check out the line at the food bank and other social services. None of those needs would be met by a bigger library building.

We got involved in the ballot campaign – ‘Be Fair – Vote No’ – not against a library but against an ill-conceived effort to expand a 19th century vision of a library. Modern libraries aren’t about bricks and mortar, they’re about access and technology, and a giant building in the wealthiest part of town wouldn’t provide access or technology to folks struggling to make ends meet in the neighborhoods that aren’t wealthy or well-served.

Developing the campaign message required research, and in that research I stumbled across the most most modern of concepts, the Digital Public Library of America. It is a vision to provide electronic access to the collections of libraries and museums. DP.LA was just getting its legs under it at that time, and the list of collaborating institutions was fairly short. There was the Smithsonian, Harvard, the Library of Congress, the National Archives…GALILEO? University of Georgia’s libraries were among the first public academic institutions into the DP.LA. GALILEO served as one of the first DP.LA hubs in the country.

Rick sitting next to the Jahnke Little Free Library, registered as #10403, our personal response to a lack of library branches in town.

Rick sitting next to the Jahnke Little Free Library, registered as #10403, our personal response to a lack of library branches in town.

Given our history at SkIO, we’ve had some trepidation about the changes anticipated when SkIO joined UGA. Both the state of Georgia and its University System have been incredibly good to us. I must admit that having an emeritus household member who can still use GALILEO for research is an exceptional benefit. But I still got a little choked up when that familiar acronym greeted me as an inaugural participant in the implementation of a visionary idea.

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