The Carnegie Oasis in Lincoln
This is the eighth of a multipart series on the Carnegie Library. Note: Lincoln’s Carnegie Library is currently closed, due to budget cuts in the city of Lincoln’s General Fund.
For a century, the Carnegie Library was an oasis in downtown Lincoln.
It wasn’t just because of the palm trees that once spread their greenery along the hot valley sidewalk that led to the library stairs.
It certainly wasn’t because we would have had to climb aboard camels to make our way to the next oasis - the next site where books gathered in welcoming pools.
However, to every Lincolnite of those days, the image of a camel caravan is amusingly accurate. On a hot summer day, the road between Lincoln and Roseville was to be avoided like the Sahara or the Gobi.
The road rippled like a huge black snake in the rising heat. The dry fields surrounded us like sand dunes. For miles stretching in all directions, it was the Carnegie Library alone that quenched our thirst for literature and information.
The Carnegie was an oasis that beckoned to us with its tall screened doors and its shady vestibule. In we would go, then out again, heading home with the world in our arms.
At home, with open books in our hands, the walls of our rooms would fall away. We were on the sea with the crew of The Bounty. We were in the desert with Lawrence of Arabia. We herded cattle on the long drives from Texas to Kansas City. We rode horses and loved dogs.
We learned how to understand the calls of high school football plays. We sank deep into the steppes of Russia. We explored workers rights, history and politics. We puzzled over mysteries.
We drew back from the horrors of war. We read poetry we didn’t understand and then became enlightened by the poems that enriched us forever.
We fell in love.
Why was the Carnegie so essential to our lives?
Why was it so essential to Lincoln’s children, parents and teachers?
To our mechanics, farmers, storekeepers, carpenters, plumbers and butchers?
To our cooks, doctors, farmers, Pottery workers, housekeepers, bartenders, veterans and men pumping gas like my dad and brother?
Yes, it was essential. Because for half a century, the Carnegie stood alone.
It stood there before television.
Before the Tower of Books.
No one had ever heard of Borders Books or Barnes and Noble.
No one could even imagine Kindles and Nooks.
No one could even imagine books that flew through the air with an Amazon click.
The Carnegie was our oasis, our literary pool, offering shade, quenching our thirsts. Like reflections off a pool, the Carnegie illuminated the past and the future.
Even today, if you would stop a minute and look up at the handsome welcoming structure, you might see the waver of a lingering mirage: the shadows of an entire community climbing and descending the library stairs, book after book, decade after decade.
But make no mistake about it. The Carnegie wasn’t a mirage. The Carnegie Library was our oasis.
At the Twelve Bridges Library
Free Mother Goose on the Loose: 10:30 or 11:30 a.m. Thursdays for kids
Free story time: 3:30 p.m. every Wednesday for kids
Events are sponsored by Friends of the Lincoln Library. The Twelve Bridges Library is at 485 Twelve Bridges Drive.
This column is part of a Friends of the Lincoln Library series. To reach the nonprofit Friends, write to Box 1177, Lincoln CA 95648, contact 434-2404, or friendsofthelincolncalibrary.org. Jane Tahti is the Friends of the Lincoln Library secretary.