Ben Cohen

Smith Library, the Oxford branch of the Lane Library system, is the only institution in Butler County to be considered a Freedom Station. –Mihir Devare

Oxford’s Smith Library of Regional History has joined an elite list: The library, which is the Oxford branch of the Lane Library system, has been named as a Freedom Station by the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center (URFC) in Cincinnati.

“The URFC actively recruits Freedom Stations that do research on slavery and the Underground Railroad, and also inducts current organizations as regional freedom stations that help eradicate slavery, poverty, and other injustices in the world,” said Angela Corley, director for the Freedom Stations program.

According to Corley, the intent of the program is to recruit organizations that historically and currently fight against injustice.

“(Smith Library) had a very rich collection of information related to the Underground Railroad in this area,” Corley said. ” … A Freedom Station is described as an organization or institution that works to preserve Underground Railroad history and to tell the courageous story of the Underground Railroad, applying it to the modern world to inspire the eradication of slavery today.”

Miami University has made an attempt to raise awareness to the presence of modern slavery as well, with lectures such as the one by Kevin Bales, president of the nonprofit organization, Free the Slaves.

His lecture at Miami took place Aug. 30 in Hall Auditorium and was sponsored by The Center for American And World Cultures as the was the first lecture in the fall 2007 lecture series, Diversity: Engaging Your Global Future Now.

While Smith Library is a concrete example of Oxford’s involvement in the Underground Railroad system, Valerie Elliot, Smith Library’s head librarian, said it has been rumored that other Underground Railroad sites exist throughout Oxford. She refers to John Jones Farm, south of Oxford on Boothe Road, as the best-documented location.

According to Elliot, Smith Library was the only institution in Butler County and the only branch of Lane Libraries to be considered a Freedom Station due to its unique collection of archives, manuscripts and photographs.

“(Smith Library’s collection is) a good match for the mission of the Underground Railroad Freedom Center,” Elliott said.

Smith Library collects materials on more than just Oxford. According to Elliott, they collect information on Butler County and much of Southwestern Ohio.

With the title of a Freedom Station, Smith Library will be linked to the URFC Web page. “This will make the library more accessible to researchers, and Smith will also be able to use their services for programming,” Elliot said, explaining that programming from URFC discuss the importance of Freedom Stations.

According to Elliott, the library will now be a part of an online community with an interactive Web site, as well as a part of the Freedom Center’s Internet radio program.

The Freedom Center title lasts indefinitely, making Smith library one of 523 members to be named a Freedom Station this year.