Canby Public Library: She’s Got Moves

Hear this edition of Canby Then in all of its audio glory on Episode 6 of the Canby Now Podcast.

Independent, civic-minded, and the descendant of Canby’s pioneering Lee family, Ora Lee Cattley served as librarian of the Canby Public Library for 15 years, as the library outgrew its space at City Hall and began a nomadic existence, moving to a number of different downtown locations over the decades

In 1959, Ora and her husband, George, suffered a devastating loss, as their only son, Hal, was killed in a horrific train crash on Feb. 9, along with three others. They were part of a carpool group, who all lived in Canby and worked in various locations in Portland. Their car, a 1955 Ford Coupe, was struck at the crossing near the fairgrounds, which at that time did not have signal lights, only a warning sign.

The car was dragged 250 feet from its impact point, and was so mangled that it had to be pulled apart to recover Hal’s body. Hal Cattley was 41 and left behind a wife, Ruth, and three children. Also killed were 28-year-old Lonnie Jerman, a pregnant mother of three, 20-year-old Irene Koch, who had been newly engaged, and 62-year-old Leonard Arthur Nixon, married with two grown children.

Seven years later, Ora herself passed, following a short illness. She was 76, and died in the same house she was born in, on her grandparents’ original land claim. She had lived in Canby almost her entire life.

In 1977, the Library Information Network of Clackamas County was established, when voters approved a countywide levy to fund library operations. It formed a consortium of libraries that includes Canby, Molalla and Oregon City, which share revenue, resources and a unified computer system.

The marriage, however, has not always been harmonious. The consortium’s revenue sharing formula, which is calculated from the circulation numbers of each of the member libraries rather than being based on need, has created what the Oregonian once described as a system of “haves and have-nots.”

In this same article, the Lake Oswego Public Library—one of the busiest in the state—was likened to a family’s “rich uncle,” while the libraries in Canby and Oregon City were called its “blue-collar kin.”

Another long-serving librarian was Beth Saul, who worked for the city in a number of roles from 1982 to 2008.

In 1985, the library was preparing for yet another move, from the basement of 181 N. Grant St. to the Masonic Building at 288 NW First Ave., when Beth had a novel idea. Rather than boxing up and moving the library’s collection of some 16,000 books, she called on patrons to simply check all the books out, and return them a few weeks later, to the library’s new location.

It worked, but not quite as well as she’d hoped. As moving day approached, the library’s collection had dwindled to around 8,000 — still a hefty number. So, Beth hatched a new scheme. She planned to use a quote, “human chain,” made up of 200 local elementary school students to pass the books from one location to the other.

Alas, uncooperative weather put an end to this “book brigade” before it even began. Nevertheless, an army of volunteers showed up and, with Beth organizing their efforts, managed to shift all 8,000 books in about 30 minutes.

The library ended its nomadic lifestyle in 1989, when Canby voters approved a $600,000 bond measure that allowed the city to purchase and renovate the former Ace Hardware store in downtown Canby. The library’s collection by then had swelled to more than 20,000 pieces, but their new digs had room to grow, with space for double that amount.

In 2001, library patron Felicia Sheeran checked out a video that contained an animated version of the poem ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas, along with several other holiday cartoons from the 1950s. She also checked out a book containing the same classic yuletide poem. Both media contained depictions of Santa smoking a pipe and drinking a cup of…holiday cheer.

Sheeran returned the book and movie with notes saying the materials were inappropriate for her 6-year-old daughter and 3-year-old son, and demanding that they be removed from the library. On Dec. 17, just in time for Christmas, the library board issued its ruling: the materials would not be removed the children’s section. Policy held that censorship is a purely individual matter, and that the library does not act in place of parents with regard to materials that children select.

Beth Saul sent a letter to Sheeran, notifying her of the board’s decision and thanking her for her interest and involvement.

In 2004, questions arose over the lack of Internet filters on the library’s computers, particularly as they pertained to use by minors. In response, Beth wrote a letter to the editor of The Oregonian, explaining that the library’s strict policy mandates that any minor’s use of computers is approved by their parent or guardian.

“So, although the Internet stations at the Canby Public Library are not filtered,” she wrote, “the library procedures actually require the best filter of all: parental consent!”

In 2016, the Canby Public Library happily shed some of its “blue collar” roots, moving into a brand new, $6.9 million, 21st century library facility and civic building on NE 2nd  Ave.

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