The County has created a Library Futures Task Force page, The page includes meeting notes, agendas and a contact list of members. Please read the minutes and contact your city representitive with your comments.
Over the past few weeks, the Douglas County Library Futures Task Force has been considering possibilities. It’s heard proposals from various groups, including the Douglas Education Service District, which offered some services in exchange for the chance to relocate to the main library building in Roseburg, and Library Systems and Services, a private for-profit company that said it could manage the library system with two employees and lots of volunteers.
On Friday, Harney County Library Director Cheryl Hancock joined the task force’s weekly meeting by teleconference to explain how her library works with local schools.
First, she provided some background. Harney is the largest county in the state by geographic area but has just one library branch, which is located in Burns. It’s open Monday through Saturday and operates 43 hours per week. The library pays $9,200 per year to join the Sage Consortium, a group of libraries in 15 Eastern and Central Oregon counties. Sage provides it with courier and catalog services.
Harney County receives property taxes of $4.50 per $1,000 in property value — about four times the amount that Douglas County government receives. The Harney County Library has an annual budget around $300,000, with about $60,000 of that coming from the library foundation and the rest from the Harney County government’s general fund, so it’s not in the dire financial straits the Douglas County Library System faces. Hancock said she’s sorry about Douglas County’s situation.
“I wish I had an answer for you, I really do, but I can tell you what we do, I can tell you what we have done, and I hope there might be a glimmer in there for you,” she said.
The Harney County Library created a strategic plan, beginning by surveying the county’s residents. It found a need for more service to rural patrons, and that schools are often a gathering place for rural county residents. It hopes to expand service to those areas in coming years.
Local schools were struggling to keep their libraries open, with minimal or volunteer staff, and the Harney Education Service District, which serves nine of the county’s 10 rural school districts, had a great library that had been closed for a couple of years. So the county library stepped in. It successfully applied for grants to make resources of both the county and the school libraries available to all K-8 students, saving the problem of the high school library (also closed) for another time. It made the elementary, middle school and ESD libraries members of Sage, bar-coded the books and supplied Project Cool (Connecting Our Own Libraries) library cards to all the students. The middle school has a new library employee, and the county library hired an employee to manage the Cool project. Now, all the students can check out books from any Sage library.
Hancock said she hopes soon that ESD will be able to deliver books to students in the nine rural districts.
The task force is about halfway through the first of its duties, Douglas County Commissioner Gary Leif said Friday.
“This is the easy work, OK, as we look at all our options. Once we get those options done, the hard part’s going to come,” Leif said.
That hard part is working toward a solution for the governance and funding of the library. Once the task force settles on an idea or at least on Plans A, B and C, Portland State University’s Oregon Solutions program will help the task force figure out how to implement that solution.
Task force members have previously agreed they want a countywide library system but have not yet determined what that would look like. A subcommittee meeting after the main task force meeting Friday identified several possibilities. One possibility would be a special district that encompasses the entire county but has no tax base.
Another possibility is a non-contiguous district that could include the cities but not the surrounding rural areas. Even if a district passed with zero taxes, the district’s board could later seek voter approval for a tax levy. The earliest a district could be placed on the ballot would be in November. Other options identified Friday included having a nonprofit organization run the district, and passing a temporary levy.
No matter what decisions the task force ultimately makes, the short-range plan is that the county will no longer fund or operate the libraries. The smaller branches have already either closed or transitioned to volunteer-run reading rooms. Sutherlin, Oakland and Reedsport have each signed an intergovernmental agreement with the county to operate their own libraries. Amy Jensen, Riddle’s task force representative, said the city government there has also signed its IGA, but Leif said the county hasn’t received it yet.
The Roseburg branch is slated to close at the end of May, with library staff remaining until the end of June to manage the collection. Leif said even if cities haven’t yet worked out what they want to do, the county plans to leave its books at each branch unless a city requests their removal.
The Douglas County Library System will lose its official state recognition as a library after the county’s board of commissioners holds two public hearings, the last of which was at this Wednesday’s commisioner’s meeting.
The outlying libraries of the system closed as county facilities on April 1. The Roseburg branch of the system is scheduled to close as a county library on May 31.
There was at least one thing Commissioner Gary Leif wanted to make clear Wednesday morning: the county’s libraries are not closing for good.
“The libraries are not going away,” he told the audience of about 50 people. “Please put that out of your head. The libraries are going to stay open, it’s just not going to be in the same manner. It’s up to volunteers in the cities right now to step up to the plate and make sure that happens.”
The hearings are mere formalities, Commissioner Tim Freeman said, since there will not be a resulting official decision. The county chose not to fully fund the library system for this fiscal year during last year’s budget meetings. Taxpayers voted last November against a taxing district that would have funded the system through property taxes. Without a funding source, the library system has run dry. To fill the void, a collection of reading rooms are being set up where people are not allowed to check out books.
Leif, who is the library liaison for the board, said people have asked him why there was not a “plan B” to funding the library system outside of the taxing district.
“Commissioner (Chris) Boice and I went to every meeting and told the library foundation, ‘What is your plan B?’” he said. “And they didn’t want to have a plan B.”
Boice was the liaison prior to January. He was absent from this public hearing.
Douglas County lost most of its general fund revenues as the timber harvest began to decline about two decades ago. Since then the federal government has provided safety net payments to rural counties. That funding, called Secure Rural Schools, is no longer in place.
Leif said the key to keeping the libraries funded is contacting federal lawmakers regarding timber harvests.
“There’s a fix to this,” he said. “You need to contact the federal legislators who have provided ideas and have forest management, timber management plans. We need a timber management plan to fund the library district.”
Buzzy Nielsen, the Crook County library director and president-elect of the Oregon Library Association, offered his support to Douglas County at the hearing. He said Douglas County is the fifth Oregon county to lose its library system. The others are Deschutes, Hood River, Josephine and Jackson counties. Three of those counties have since reopened their libraries. Nielsen helped reopen the Hood River County library system.
“It is not an easy task to reopen a library after it has been closed,” Nielsen said. “The thing that has helped them the most is what you are doing now: retaining the assets in place, including the collections, furniture and equipment.”
Leif said the county is not going to give away its books, nor is it going to sell them. They will remain intact until there is a solution to managing them as library collections. Right now each community is responsible for maintaining its own library. Ten library branches are in buildings owned by their respective towns. The county owns the Roseburg branch, which is the only one that has not officially shut down from county management.
Although the libraries have technically disbanded from the county system, many have opened as reading rooms managed by a team of volunteers.
The county formed a 19-member library task force earlier this year. It is made up of representatives from each city and of people with different interests related to the library. The group meets weekly on Friday afternoons with a goal of finding a stable source of funding for the county’s libraries. It has considered a few options, including hiring a private management company or partnering with the Douglas Education Service District.
MYRTLE CREEK — The Myrtle Creek branch of the Douglas County Library System closed its doors Thursday.
In its final hours, library patrons read and talked, used the computers and collected books, as a documentary film crew from San Francisco’s Serendipity Films moved around them, gathering stories for a film on the history of the American public library and the challenges those libraries face today.
And the challenges in Myrtle Creek and Douglas County are very, very real. The county government, strapped for cash, announced it would be unable to fund the county libraries through the end of the year. A November ballot measure that would have created a library district tax to keep the libraries opened was rejected by voters. Subsequently, the closure dates were announced — April 1 for the 10 rural branches and May 31 for the main branch in Roseburg. A task force has been convened to seek a long-term funding solution.
Meanwhile, library boards, city councilors and a host of book-loving volunteers are scrambling to fill the breach in Myrtle Creek and other cities around the county.
There’s been a library in Myrtle Creek in some form for 105 years, and quite a few town residents say they have no intention of giving it up. Already, 35 volunteers have signed up to work shifts at the library and they plan to reopen it on July 1.
On Thursday, the prevailing mood at the library was sadness.
Karen Rivera, mother of 12-year-old Jaime Rivera, wiped away tears as she talked about what the loss meant to her and her daughter. It was hard enough adjusting to a small library open only part-time after they moved here from Salt Lake City a couple years ago. She and Jaime were reading the book “Zillah and Me” together Thursday. They’ve been reading together since Jaime was born.
“I’m really bummed,” Karen Rivera said. “The library offered a way for us to get together, to feed our minds. We’ve always been a poor family, and being able to go to the library programs has given our family something to do for free.”
“Being able to borrow books from the library to gain information, that was awesome,” Jaime said. “Now this is going to be ripped away from us, and it sucks.”
This wasn’t Marilyn Brouillard’s first rodeo, though. Brouillard, longtime volunteer and incidentally the mayor’s wife, lived in Redding, California, almost 30 years ago when the Shasta County Library System closed down.
Back then, her son checked out a collection of books beginning with the words “The Last.” On Thursday, Brouillard copied his example.
She checked out 10 books with titles like “The Last Star,” “The Last Sin Eater,” “The Last Battle,” and “The Last Apocalypse.”
She doesn’t know if she’ll get to read them all before the final book return date of April 25.
“I just never thought I’d go through this a second time,” she said.
She said she’s impressed, though, by the number of people who have signed up to volunteer.
Myrtle Creek Librarian Hannah Merrill is out of a job, but said she tried her best to make the library’s last day a happy one for the people who love it. She said she plans to return to school to get an English degree, and would like to become a fiction editor.
“I’ve always had a love for books,” she said.
Connie Earp wondered where the children would go. The library is a source of knowledge for them, she said, and she loves watching their little faces light up during story time.
To have that disappear, she said, “it’s just the saddest thing.”
Five-year-old Jameson Bury clutched a book about dinosaurs as his mother wondered what they’d do until the library reopened with an all-volunteer staff in July. His mother said she visits the library every week with Jameson and his little brother.
“I can’t read library books for story time any more,” Jameson said. Asked if that made him feel sad, he nodded.
“I’m really depressed about it,” Melissa Bury said. “They’ve grown up with this library. It’s someplace we really love to come.”
Public libraries are under threat as rural Oregon counties continue to cope with the loss of timber revenue. On Saturday, 10 Douglas County branch libraries will close their doors. Some hope to reopen as “reading rooms”. Community members are seeking long term funding to bring back their libraries.
The Reedsport Public Library is light and spacious. It’s a quiet afternoon. But librarian Sue Cousineau says this building is well-used. Cousineau: “The Reedsport library is one of the most important places in Reedsport.” Cousineau says the library recently underwent a renovation thanks to fund-raising and grants. Cousineau: “Our library has a lot of windows, including a solarium. It’s just a very comfortable library and it’s just very pleasing to come into.” Cousineau says people come here to check out books, use computers and hundreds of children participate in summer reading programs. But there won’t be a summer reading program here this year. Douglas County cannot afford to fund its library system anymore. With the loss of federal timber payments and a low property tax rate, thanks to voter passed measures 5 and 50, the county is taking in far less money than it needs to operate essential services. Douglas County Commissioner Gary Leif: Leif: “We are on a clear path that in 3 ½ years, maybe less we’re going to be out of money. So what we have to do is figure out what is needed and what is necessary, and what we start charging for and what we can’t. And, unfortunately, the libraries was about a 3 million dollar hit.” Leif says closing the libraries is the only option for the county. In the recent November election, a group tried to pass a special library funding district. But it failed 55 to 44 percent. The county’s branch libraries close April 1st. The main branch in Roseburg is open through May. Some cities hope to re-open soon under an agreement with the county. Leif: “Unfortunately, it’s just a reading room model, which gives all of those libraries a way to keep themselves open on a volunteer basis.” Leif is part of a task force that’s seeking long-term strategies for restoring library service. But he is leery of another county-wide ballot measure. Leif: “But if it failed again, where would we be? So I would rather look at a model like Josephine County or possibly look at even a private vendor coming in and providing a service that may not be the perfect library system but at least it would let everybody stay open in a better model than a reading room.” Reedsport plans to set up a reading room in its current library building. Wright: “It’s not a good situation no matter how we look at it.” Jonathan Wright is Reedsport City Manager. Wright: “We will support the library however we can. Currently, the building is owned by the city. We maintain the services there. So, right now we’re looking at getting a volunteer coordinator and actually we have a young lady here that’s jumped forward and said she will take the responsibility.” Wright says a dozen volunteers have also stepped up to help run the reading room. Joe Coyne is with the library advisory board and heads the Douglas county Library Foundation. He says the reading room will in no way replace a fully functioning library. Coyne: “Without the wi-fi, without the people coming in without, people don’t come into the library to take a book off the shelf, sit down, read it, put it back and go home. It’s the magazines and the wi-fi that’s going to keep them here.” The hope is to have computers and wi-fi available, but that’s still in the works. Coyne also wants to find a way for people to check out books. Even if it means going back to the old index card method. The community is raising money to fund the reading room, month to month. State librarian MaryKay Dahlgreen says the mission of a public library is to provide a wide variety of information to everyone who seeks it, for free. Dahlgreen: “It’s frankly one of the foundations of democracy to create a well-informed citizenry and I think now more than ever it’s important that there are resources out there that are very reliable.” She says the reading room model might work as a stop-gap, but… Dahlgreen: “I don’t think that model is sustainable at all.” Dahgreen says public library funding has to come from public dollars. *Josephine County library supporters have placed a special library district measure on their May ballot. Dahlgreen says other Oregon counties have been through this. She points to Deschutes, Hood River and Curry County which have all found ways to bring their library systems back with public funding. Dahlgreen: “The Douglas County library system, it’s heartbreaking, but I do deep in my heart, believe that they’ll figure out a way.” Reedsport librarian Sue Cousineau is also optimistic. Cousineau: “The Reedsport library will be here one way or another because the people in this area care so much about their library.” Cousineau will stay on through April to help volunteers set up their reading room. Then, after 13 years running the Reedsport Library, she’ll be out of a job.
Laura Burnett, the regional director of the private library management company, Library Systems and Services, addressed the Douglas County Library Futures Task Force Friday.
Burnett said she will put together a full proposal, including the price of services, once the task force has identified how much it wants to spend and what it would want in a contract.
But she had some suggestions. She recommended the countywide system be maintained, or alternatively a coalition of cities that shares books and a library catalog.
“You have a county system. We hate to see it get broken up,” Burnett said.
With a coalition model, county residents living outside the cities could be asked to pay an annual fee for a library card. Other ideas for fundraising include raising funds based on each city’s population, at a rate of about $1 per person to pay staffing costs.
LSS serves libraries in 84 locations, including Jackson County. Burnett said if LSS was chosen to run the libraries, it would provide off-site human resources, cataloguing and book purchasing services. She said two part-time employees should be hired locally — one to train volunteers and the other to coordinate them.
She said this system, if run by volunteers, would be unique. At its other locations, the company provides on-site librarians.
Despite the volunteer-based staff, she said she would want the libraries here to be open seven days a week, for as many hours as possible.
Burnett plans to meet with the Douglas Education Service District to see if the two organizations can come up with a proposal together. ESD has proposed moving into the Roseburg branch as well as possibly one South County branch.
ESD Director Michael Lasher said Friday that ESD and LSS could be good partners, since ESD doesn’t know how to run a library but it could provide some educational services like children’s story times.
“Either of us alone perhaps isn’t as much of a positive solution as (both of) us together,” he said.
Roseburg City Councilor and task force member Brian Prawitz asked why ESD was getting “pushed to the front of the line” over other possible partners like Umpqua Community College.
Douglas County Commissioner Gary Leif said it isn’t.
“We’re still in our infancy stages, and we’re looking at all our options,” Leif said. However, he said ESD might make a good partner.
Prawitz also asked if the county can’t afford a library, how it could afford to hire LSS. Burnett said that depends on what the cities are willing to do. Burnett said she needs to know what she has to work with before she can present a full proposal with pricing. Linda Middlekauf, task force member representing people who opposed a library tax district, was optimistic about what LSS could do for the county’s library system.
“This organization offers the freedom of thinking outside the box,” she said.
Pat Fahey, task force member at large, said LSS had come under fire in Jackson County in 2016 for paying its workers low wages. There’s two sides to the coin, he said, and both bear looking at.
Gary Waugaman, task force member representing the Douglas County Library Foundation, said the task force needed to stop bringing in speakers and start working on a budget of what it wanted to continue funding and how much it wanted to spend.
Douglas Education Service District wants to move into the Douglas County Library’s Roseburg branch, and help keep it open.
ESD Superintendent Michael Lasher proposed the move Friday at an Oregon Community Foundation meeting on library funding options.
Lasher said ESD would become an “anchor tenant,” and ESD employees would be able to maintain some of the most important library services in Roseburg.
“We’re not interested in single-handedly solving the funding for the library system, but we’d like to do our part,” Lasher said in a January video to ESD staff about the proposed move. “We just want to be part of the solution to preserving libraries in Douglas County.”
ESD would be able to keep the library doors open during its operational hours, from 7:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Monday to Friday. It could organize a professional and volunteer base to operate the library during those hours and maybe other hours as well. And it could become the fiscal agent that seeks outside funding from foundations and other public entities to operate a revitalized library system. It could also serve as a hub for city-run branches in the smaller towns.
In his proposal, Lasher wrote that many have said the vote rejecting a library district was the “canary in the coal mine for the future of the county.”
The ESD, he wrote, is especially concerned about the potential damage of library closure to education in the county. And it’s particularly concerned with the loss of children’s literacy initiatives and parent-children reading groups.
“Our board is supportive of Douglas ESD stepping forward to help preserve library services,” Lasher wrote.
The ESD has 200 employees in Douglas and Jackson counties. It provides services like I-T, curriculum, professional development, special education and administrative services to 13 Douglas County school districts. The ESD is currently considering relocation or renovation of its current office at 1871 N.E. Stephens St., and if its proposal is accepted, the library building could be its new home.
Two foam display boards outlining the Douglas County general fund and timber revenues were on display at the Douglas County commissioners meeting Wednesday.
The displays were part of Commissioner Chris Boice’s message that the county’s timber payments from the federal government were less than they were a year ago. Boice said he made the charts for the “sole purpose” of showing the public that the timber revenues were not enough to cover additional county services like a library.
REEDSPORT — Rayna Grubb, who with husband Sean has lived here more than 15 years, is an active volunteer at the Reedsport Branch Library. Yet now the future of this building — a center of learning and research for many here — remains uncertain.
As for the library, Sutherlin opted out of putting a Douglas County Library taxing district on its voters’ ballots. County voters, meanwhile, voted against creating a district, which would have funded the county library system. Now the county is struggling to find a means of funding its library system. That has left cities wondering if there will be a county-wide library system any longer.
“We need a library in Sutherlin,” Stone said. “We just need to figure out how to fund it. Property owners don’t want to pay for the whole deal. It will have to be something along the lines of a user fee.”
“I know it’s good to have a local library in your own community, but for the cost, it’s an expensive thing to have,” he added. “There are so many other things we need to move forward with.”
It was once again standing room only Tuesday as about 200 people crammed into the Ford Room of the Douglas County Library in Roseburg for the second of two town hall meetings on the future of the library.
There were tears from a Glide teacher who said she “just can’t believe people failed” a library district measure earlier this month, and cheers for the father of a home-schooled girl who raised money for the library through a bake sale.
Most of the discussion Tuesday focused on proposals for keeping the county libraries open. Read NR article