A bright yellow sign with the words “Closed?” on it was draped across the doors of the Douglas County Library’s Roseburg branch Tuesday morning.
Supporters of a library taxing district say that’s the threat the library system faces right now. Close to 100 library supporters turned up to rally Tuesday in support of a library district that will be on the November ballot.
If voters OK the new district, a separate library district board will manage the libraries independent of county government. They’ll levy a tax of 44 cents per $1,000 of property value, an amount supporters say will finance the library at the level it was funded before staff and hours were slashed.
The county is in a budgetary crisis. With timber receipts from the federal government discontinued and all its property taxes going to the sheriff’s department, it’s unlikely the library’s branches could remain open much past the first of the year if the district measure doesn’t pass.
“There isn’t a plan B,” Gary Waugaman, chairman of Save our Libraries Political Action Committee, told those assembled at the rally.
Jason Heald, director of music at Umpqua Community College, said he has loved libraries since he climbed on board a bookmobile in Pasco, Washington, when he was 4 years old. He loved choosing books and feeding his intellectual curiosity without having information spoon fed to him.
“Everybody in a developed society has a library, and has that information. It’s been that way since antiquity, since Egypt, that people have relied on their libraries as a source of information, and it’s more than just a depository for books. It’s about people and it’s about community,” he said.
Libraries serve everyone equally, he said.
“It serves those that are impoverished as well as those who are wealthy. It serves everyone the same. It serves everyone regardless of their party affiliation. Every civilized society needs an informed electorate. It serves everyone regardless of age,” he said.
Former librarian Marilyn Woodrich said when she moved to Roseburg in 1950, the library was located in the Willis House. Books were piled everywhere and the librarian at the time promptly hired Woodrich after learning she had a library degree. A few years later, the Douglas County Library System was created. Now is the time to build on that success, Woodrich said, not to lose it.
Logan Pickens, 7, of Roseburg attended the rally with his mother, Kristi Pickens, and his little sister Ruby. Logan most recently checked out the book “Eeyore has a Birthday” from the library. He gives the library high marks.
“It’s good,” he said.
When asked what he’d think about the library closing forever, he pointed his thumb toward the ground. Thumbs down to that, in Logan’s view.
Kristi Pickens said the library is very important to her as a home-schooling mother. Her family loves coming to the library to get books.
“I just couldn’t even imagine not having that. I couldn’t imagine us not having a library. It’s a sad thing to think about,” she said.
Sylvia Norton is devastated that her library branch in Sutherlin is likely to disappear, since the Sutherlin City Council opted out of allowing the town’s voters to vote on joining a library district.
“I can’t believe this is happening,” Norton said.
She said if necessary, she’ll drive to Roseburg to get her books. If the district fails, and all the branches close in January, she’s not sure what she’ll do.
“I can’t imagine it,” she said.
She recently returned to the library a book called “Prison Noir,” a collection of writings from prison inmates, and checked out the latest novel by author Neil Gaiman.
“I’m a huge reader. I read all the time,” she said.
Kathy Vejtasa of Wilbur said the library’s important for kids. She checks out books there too, and recently read “Soldier Girls” by Helen Thorpe.
Vejtasa said she’s been pleased to see many lawn signs in support of a library district as she’s driven around the county.
“I think nobody wants to see the community, especially the smaller communities, lose their libraries,” she said.
Joan Seitz said library supporters have given out about 475 lawn signs, and they’ve ordered 500 more. They’ve also given out 180 medium-sized signs and 50 large signs. She said people wanting to display signs can contact her at 541-673-2764.
Karen Tolley, co-chairwoman of the Get Out the Vote committee for the library PAC said the turnout for Tuesday’s rally was wonderful. She said volunteers will begin knocking on doors and giving out information at library branches and post offices.
It’s important, Tolley said, to make sure people understand the library will close if the district doesn’t pass.
“We’ve all grown up with libraries. We all think they need to be there. We rely on them,” she said.