Friends ‘dedicated’ to Lebanon Library for 20-plus years

By Sarah Brown

Lebanon Local

Since forming in 1953, volunteers through Friends of the Library have invested countless hours to provide supplemental funding for the Lebanon Public Library, which hosts popular programs for children and adults.

Harlan Mastenbrook, 89, and his wife Kathleen, 88, have been serving with Friends of the Library for 20-plus years, making them the longest-serving Friends in Lebanon.

“They’re dedicated volunteers to an important community service,” said Virginia Cloyd, another volunteer with Friends.

They’ve been unable to pinpoint exactly when they started with Friends, but the pair recalled doing book sales when the library was at the old hospital on Second Street, and at Century Park.

A 1999 library memo mentioned that Friends planned to make the book sales monthly instead of annual, and that the Mastenbrooks “have enthusiastically embraced” the project.

“They are probably one of the most dedicated couples to the library I’ve ever come across,” said Teresa Frazier, a Friends volunteer.

Once a month, the Friends host a book sale at the Senior Center. Volunteers pull boxes and boxes of books out of storage, set them on tables, and collect the sales money to be split between the Senior Center and Friends.

It’s quite a popular sale, said Cloyd, who estimates sales will bring in almost $5,000 for the library this year.

At the end of the day, volunteers load the boxes back on hand trucks for storage, pack up the tables and bring in the sandwich boards until the next sale.

FRIENDS of the Library volunteer Karla Joy McMechan, right, talks with volunteer Carolyn Misa during a book sale at the senior center. The book sales support programs at the Lebanon Public Library and the Lebanon Senior Center.
Photo by Sarah Brown

Unable to do heavy lifting any longer, the Mastenbrooks are the first to arrive to open the doors, and the last to leave, after lock-up.

Harlan’s grandparents moved to Lebanon in 1911. His grandfather, a carpenter, built a house at what was known at the time as Whiskey Village; the street is now Golden Valley Drive. It’s the same house Harlan was born and raised in. Save for a couple of years spent in the Army, Harlan has lived there his whole life and still lives there today.

Kathleen is the first in her family to be born outside England. Her family bought an apple farm in Oregon in 1909, and ran a dairy farm during the Great Depression. She studied nursing at Emanuel Hospital’s School of Nursing in Portland.

While there, a classmate introduced Kathleen to Harlan as a pen pal. The letter exchanges went well.

“I thought, ‘Well, I like that young lady and I’m gonna put a bid on her,’” Harlan said.

The two married and set up their home next to the house Harlan was born in. During his career, he has been a truck driver, farmer, hay dealer and feed store owner. The two still harvest walnuts from a shared property and sell them to friends.

“Everybody knows we’re nut people,” Harlan said.

He also still delivers hay bales, but Kathleen jokes the only thing they farm is poison oak.

Kathleen worked as a nurse at the Mennonite Home, during which time she started considering volunteering for Friends after she retired.

Since the pair do everything together, Harlan tagged along, so to speak, as a Friend and eventually took the role as president on the board of directors. Kathleen took the vice president role.

She likes to read “anything that strikes (her) fancy,” including local history. Being a Friend gives her something to do and gets her out of the house, she said.

“It rains a lot, as Oregon is noted for, and this is something you can do year-round,” she said.

Proceeds from Friends book sales help provide programs through the library, including the popular summer reading program. It’s one of many reasons why Friends is important to the Lebanon community, Frazier noted.

“I think the most important is they serve your community and bring you together,” she said. “You expose children to all sorts of different important things, not just books. They learn all sorts of things with a program at the library.”

Justin Atterberry and Adrianna Flores peruse a shelf of fiction. They say they visit the book sale regularly.
Photo by Sarah Brown

Though there are currently about 20 volunteers with Friends, Cloyd would like to see more people get involved.

Persons interested in volunteering with Friends of the Library are invited to their monthly meetings, which are usually held the second Monday of the month at 10 a.m. in the library’s community room.

Everybody agrees the Mastenbrooks will probably be Friends until they can no longer.

“The only way I’m going to get out of it is when I can’t come to meetings,” Harlan said.