Books, bunnies | Editorial

The 20th birthday party for the grand pair of rabbits that welcomes visitors to the Mercer Island Library is set for May 3. The sculpture entitled “Between Two Worlds” is the work of artist Georgia Gerber. Yet beyond the relatively young age of the building and its furry sentinels, the idea of a Mercer Island library is much older. The site of the present-day library was set in 1891, when pioneer Vitus Schmid donated an acre of the land for public use. But it took much longer for the books to arrive.

At the turn of the last century, Islanders fussed about how to get books to the community that was accessible only by boat. After the King County Library System was established in 1942, a library was set up in a small room in the Guild Hall of the Episcopal Church in East Seattle. The church, built in 1912, was just the place for the library as it appeared to be the very center of the Island’s social whirl. The little library was immediately put to good use. According to Judy Gellaty’s book “Mercer Island Heritage,” “a river of books flowed from the county [library] headquarters in Seattle to the tiny cubicle that was the Mercer Island library, out to all parts of the Island, and back again. Almost any book could be requested and procured.” As is the case with many community endeavors, the library was made possible by the efforts of volunteers — from the materials for the shelves to the labor of the librarians to those who delivered the books to readers.

Soon Islanders wanted their own library. Finally in 1950, a library was built in its present location on the land first deeded for public use in 1891.

The growth of the library from a room off a church hall to an established place of learning and inquiry is due to the relentless efforts of volunteers. Early Islanders and their chutzpah mirror those of today, when learning is paramount and getting things done means rolling up your own sleeves.

And happy birthday to the rabbits whose shiny bronze fur has been burnished to a fine patina over the past 20 years by Island children. The rabbits have always presented a conundrum. Should young visitors stay outside to play with the magical creatures or head inside to find more of them?

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