The library system of the future may look something like a confederation of local libraries.
That was the direction the Douglas County Library Futures Task Force appeared to be headed Friday as it grapples with how to restore a countywide system without dollars from the county government. The task force was joined for the first time Friday by a facilitator. Heidi McGowan is an independent Corvallis consultant brought in and paid for by the Douglas County Library Foundation to help the task force come together and choose a direction for the library system’s future.
It became clear Friday that not everyone had the same thing in mind when the task force approved pursuit of a countywide system several weeks ago.
Roseburg City Manager Lance Colley, who does not sit on the task force, said he would understand a countywide system to involve an interconnected group of libraries operated together as one system, with a library employee at each branch. But members of the task force’s funding subcommittee said that’s not the model they’re working toward.
Under the confederation of libraries model, a central hub in Roseburg would provide collection management, volunteer training and computer services while cities would govern staffing and hours at their own branches.
Jim Williams, the funding subcommittee chairman, explained that its members recommend having three employees at the hub. Those would be a director, whose duties would include coordinating volunteers, a librarian and a person in charge of information technology.
It appeared the task force was moving toward consensus Friday that this confederation model was the best, and cheapest approach.
“I like the sound of it. I think it would be very affordable as far as that goes,” said Canyonville task force representative Buddy Kovachy.
Not everyone was happy, though. Task force member and Winston representative Dave Cunningham said talking about a confederation gave him “indigestion.” He noted that confederacies in history tended to fail because more centralized leadership was needed.
One of the more unusual suggestions made Friday was Myrtle Creek task force representative Henry Stevens’ suggestion that miscreants and homeless people be brought in as library volunteers instead of being put in jail.
“Try to think out of the box, because it seems to me that the box, rather than a box, is a prison of ideas. We’re not getting anywhere,” he said.
Roseburg representative Brian Prawitz was not amused.
“I can’t tell if you’re joking about using homeless people as volunteers in this building. I hope you’re kidding,” he said.
“Not really,” Stevens said.
Task force member Pat Fahey reported that Josephine County voters approved a new library district Tuesday. Their district is noncontiguous — made up of service areas in close proximity to the library branches rather than the county as a whole. On a map, the district looks like several unconnected islands within the county. It’s funded by a 39 cents per $1,000 property tax, also approved by voters there Tuesday.
A noncontiguous district is one of the possible funding solutions that has been mentioned for the Douglas County library system. Decisions about how to fund the system appear to be a ways off yet. Several task force members said Friday they needed a clear plan for what they wanted first.
In other library news, earlier Friday, the Douglas County Board of Commissioners approved a new type of intergovernmental agreement that will allow it to contract not just with city governments but also with Friends of the Libraries groups to provide local branch services.
On Wednesday, the commissioners approved an agreement with the city of Yoncalla. Doris Bartlett, the task force member representing Yoncalla, said in an email to The News-Review that the agreement will allow for checking out books. She said volunteers and donations are being sought.
“We are anxious to re-open our library as soon as possible but have no definite date,” she wrote.
The task force is changing the day and location of its meetings to 10 a.m. Thursdays in Room 216 of the Douglas County Courthouse, 1036 S.E. Douglas Ave., Roseburg.