The outlines of a plan for the future Douglas County Library System are beginning to take shape.
The Douglas County Library Futures Task Force reached consensus Thursday that it wants to form a nonprofit organization to manage the library system’s hub services.
Their agreement on that subject was also a rejection of a second attempt to pass a library district. While a district could have generated tax dollars and created an elected board of directors, task force members indicated it might also be rejected by voters, even if they sought less money this time. Voters in November rejected a district that would have raised about $3.8 million with a 44 cents per $1,000 value property tax.
The budget being contemplated by the task force is dramatically smaller, largely because it includes just three paid employees. Task force members appeared willing Thursday to support an approximate $450,000 budget for hub services. About $170,000 of that would go toward salaries and benefits. The hub would provide centralized services like cataloging, managing the collection and courier service between libraries.
Under the plan outlined Thursday, the cities would continue to manage their own libraries, including providing staff, likely volunteers at most branches, and setting hours. All cities except Roseburg, own their own library buildings.
It’s the dramatic staff reduction that accounts for the bulk of the disparity between the proposed library budget discussed Thursday and previous library budgets. The $3.8 million that was asked for was based on 2008 staffing levels, when the library system had 45 employees, including librarians at each branch. In 2016-’17, the county spent about $2 million on the library, including pay and benefits for 17.5 employees. Under the plan discussed Thursday, all three employees would likely work at the central library building in Roseburg. They would include a director who also serves as a volunteer coordinator, a librarian and an information technology manager. If cities wanted to have paid staff at their branches, they’d have to provide the money.
Douglas County Commissioner Gary Leif said the structure discussed Thursday isn’t necessarily the final fix-all for the future. It doesn’t mean the nonprofit wouldn’t be able to work toward a district down the road, for example. But this plan keeps the libraries open, he said.
“This right here today is for us just to maintain a countywide library system the cheapest we can do it so that it doesn’t fold and go away,” Leif said.
Winston City Councilor Dave Cunningham said he was feeling enthusiastic about Thursday’s decisions. He has felt up to now that the task force has been moving slowly.
“We’re making progress and that’s what I think is absolutely fantastic,” he said.