February 16, 2018

Hundreds Attend Reopening of Main Library in Josephine County, OR

By Norman Oder

  • Library system closed since May 2007
  • Volunteers raise $370,000 via nonprofit organization
  • County grant coming, but more money needed for full service

Josephine Community LibrariesSome 500 people attended the reopening December 20 of the main library in Josephine County, OR, one of four that closed in May 2007 after the loss of federal timber payments. Organizers of the nonprofit Josephine Community Libraries (JCLI) have raised $369,462 (as of December 8) from residents to begin reopening the system, and expect a $300,000 county grant shortly.

While organizers advised that borrowers could check out materials from the Children’s Room at the Grants Pass library, checkout of materials from the rest of the library had been up in the air, depending on a successful test of computers and the Polaris library catalog system. “With the incredible help of Polaris representatives and our dedicated computer consultant, we were able to surprise everyone with checkout available to all,” JCLI spokeswoman Jennifer Roberts told LJ.

“I’ll never forget the sight of dozens of people huddlinJosephine Community Librariesg outside in the 34-degree day, waiting for the doors to open; children hanging on to piles of books almost as tall as themselves; a line snaking around the library of people waiting to check out books,” Roberts reported. “Several volunteers (myself included) shed some tears of happiness.”

Limited schedule, growing donations
The Grants Pass library was open for a total of seven hours Tuesday and Wednesday last week, with the same schedule this week. Starting Friday, January 2, the library will be open Tuesdays and Thursdays 4–8 p.m., Wednesdays and Fridays 11 a.m.–3 p.m., and Saturdays 12–4 p.m.

The inspiration for the fundraising campaign came after a county levy failed. Nevertheless, 13,000 residents (the county has about 82,000 residents) voted to tax themselves $82 a year to support the library. That willingness raised JCLI’s hopes to accrue more than $1 million via donations. 

Josephine Community LibrariesWhile only 1200 people had contributed by October, as LJ reported, the number is now about [corrected] 1740. That represents an average donation of $200, though Roberts said most gifts were less than $100, and some people had made much larger contributions. Donations are tracked via a “book-o-meter” online and hosted at a realty office in Grants Pass.

A grand opening celebration will be held on January 24. “To get ever closer to the full-service library we all want, with an up-to-date collection, convenient hours, and the services and programs our community wants, we need everyone to become a member,” JCLI says on its web site. As for opening the other three libraries, Roberts said, “We’re telling people by the end of 2009, but we’re very optimistic we can do it before then.”

“That so many community members have come together and raised the monies necessary to reopen the library in these challenging economic times is an inspiration for us all,” commented Oregon Governor Ted Kulongoski.

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