Hannon Friends host poet Petersen

The Hannon Library at Southern Oregon University is always hosting fun and interesting events, everything from lectures and film screenings to events such as the upcoming reading by Oregon's poet laureate, Paulann Petersen.

I once stumbled into an event where someone was playing a didgeridoo. I wasn't quite sure what was going on, but everyone was having a good time, so I stayed and helped myself to a tasty cookie served by one of the Friends of the Hannon Library. Not to be confused with the also-fantastic Friends of the Ashland Public Library, the Hannon Friends are a group of local contributors led by a board of 10 people who give a lot of time and raise a lot of money to support art, culture and education for the university and the whole community.

Like most libraries, the university library has a limited budget. The Hannon Friends raise roughly $10,000 every year to purchase books and other resources the library could not otherwise afford. During finals week and long study periods, when the library is open all night, the Friends provide a continuing supply of coffee, tea, cocoa, and of course, cookies, to bolster the spirits of hard-working students.

Patty Wixon, a longtime board member, says she is proud of what the Friends have done over the years.

"We have a really committed board and close to 300 members from all over the region. In addition to bringing in resources, we've been able to offer a lot of free events to the community and get the public familiar with our new materials and all the Hannon library has to offer," she said.

Wixon added that their efforts have been successful, and there is a rich crossover with people from campus and the community. Friends' recent purchases for the library include new texts on psychology and Chinese history and some giant academic dictionaries.

"Sometimes kids can't always use the computers, so it's good to have real solid dictionaries on hand," said Wixon. "Besides, everyone should get a chance to use these books. They are beautiful."

The Friends will host a free reading and talk by Paulann Petersen at 6 p.m. Thursday, May 12, in the library's Meese Meeting Room 305. The reading follows a brief membership reception to which the public is invited.

I heard Petersen read when she visited Southern Oregon last year and it was a real treat. She is the author of four chapbooks, a full-length collection of poems, and the winner of loads of awards. Best of all, she is friendly and approachable.

Her talk is titled, "From Long Island to Istanbul: What We can Learn from Walt Whitman and Nazim Hikmet." Petersen will discuss the work of 19th century American poet and essayist Walt Whitman and 20th century Turkish poet Nazim Hikmet, a romantic revolutionary who was repeatedly imprisoned for his work. She will read poems about Hikmet and from her latest book, "The Voluptuary," which was heavily influenced by Whitman.

I've come to learn that events sponsored by the Hannon Friends are often a lot more laid-back and fun than one might expect from reading their announcements. There are many times when I've seen a flier for an event that sounded like a lecture by a Dr. Long N. Boring, but I'd go anyway and find that time flew by. The speakers are usually engaging and funny, the attendees are delighted, and the warmhearted Friends volunteers make sure there are always plenty of cookies to go around.

The Hannon Library is located on the SOU campus at 1250 Siskiyou Blvd. For more information, visit http://hanlib.SOU.edu.

Angela Decker is a freelance writer living in Ashland. Reach her at decker4@gmail.com.

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