Stewart Smith of Roseburg selects a book recently at the Roseburg Library.

The Roseburg branch library is likely to close at the end of this month, but city councilors have made their first step toward opening those doors again in the future.

At its meeting Monday night, the Roseburg City Council voted unanimously to have staff develop a business model outlining how the city could provide library services. The Roseburg branch is set to close at the end of May.

The Douglas County Board of Commissioners, faced with the loss of federal timber safety net payments, will not fund library services in the coming fiscal year. All smaller branch libraries closed last month, though a few have reopened under city management.

Roseburg stands alone from other branches in that the county owns its building, not just the books and equipment within it. Other cities, by contrast, own their library buildings. County commissioners have agreed to give Roseburg $25,000 to prevent the library building from “mothballing” — that is, deteriorating from inattention.

The Ford Family Foundation donated the funds needed to build the 36,000-square-foot Roseburg branch specifically for library services. It’s much larger than other city branches, so it will be much more expensive to maintain.

Like the other branches, Roseburg will get to keep the book collection within its library. However, the county will take away its computer equipment, since it contains proprietary software.

The city of Roseburg only has $50,000 set aside in next year’s fiscal year budget for the library. That’s the amount it has paid the county each year toward the cost of maintaining the library building. It’s not enough money to keep the library open even as a reading room — a place where people can read books but cannot check them out.

Prior to its regular meeting, the council held a special meeting to assign action items to its list of city goals for the coming two years. No one mentioned the library during that meeting.

Sutherlin, Oakland and Reedsport have been more proactive. They’ve opened their libraries again as reading rooms, by using all-volunteer staffing, and Riddle this week gained permission from the county to pursue obtaining its own cataloging system so it could check out books once it reopens in June. Roseburg, however, has waited it out, waiting for potential next steps from county commissioners. Those next steps never came.

“Basically, the county system as we know it is dead,” Councilor Brian Prawitz told the council. He represents Roseburg on the Douglas County Library Futures Task Force, led by Commissioner Gary Leif.

“It became clear to me that the system was dead at the meeting last Monday, when the county commissioners made it clear that at this point, they’re done providing library services,” he added. “Which is what they’ve been saying for a very long time.”

The county will provide the $25,000 for building maintenance, it will take away the computers, and it will leave the book collection behind. Otherwise, Roseburg is on its own.

Prawitz said the city had a few options to choose from. The first and potentially least expensive was the reading room model. The second was a “reading room plus” model, in which people could check out books. Finally, it could have staff develop a business model that could potentially fund a city library system.

City Manager Lance Colley said he doubted the city could come up with a means of keeping its library open by June 1. He did not recommend councilors go with the reading room model.

“I don’t think that’s a library,” Colley said. “And I don’t want the city of Roseburg to get blamed for the failure of a library system that’s been operated by somebody else for 70 years and tossed in our lap. That’s pretty blunt, and I’m not usually that blunt about things, but we’re pretty proud of the services we provide. And this is not one of them. If you want to take it on, I really would implore you, let’s do it right.”

The city could put a measure on the ballot to form its own library taxing district. A similar countywide district measure failed last November, but Roseburg residents voted in favor of it.

If the city were to put its own district on the ballot, which would create a revenue stream from Roseburg landowners’ property taxes, that would not happen until November. If it failed, then the city could try again in May. If it passes during either month, then the new funding would not begin until the following fiscal year. That means the city faces more than a year wait.

The Douglas County Education Service District has proposed moving into the Roseburg branch. If that happens, it could provide some staff oversight, but the ESD hasn’t offered to pay rent.

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City Government Reporter

April Ehrlich covers city government for The News-Review. She can be contacted at 541-957-4202 or aehrlich@nrtoday.com. Follow her on Twitter @AprilEhrlich.

(9) comments

LibraryImp

UCC also is an academic library not suited for the purposes of supporting a community as a whole. The public library system our county is losing benefits everyone, even those not using it. Should a public library (system) reopen in the future, the cost will be much higher than having had potentially just maintained the current system as is. The library budget has been cut year after year over the past decade. But even with the slashing of this budget and staffing levels, our county's library professionals have been dedicated to offering as many services as possible. With this fiscal year's final cut to the county's budget line for the library, our county is losing a lot more than what the budget line saved the commissioners in the short term. Penny wise, pound foolish.

Mogie

How is an academic libary different? They both have books, magazines, computers, videos, tapes, etc. Why isn't it for the community? How is the library benefiting those that don't use it? I don't understand what you mean without some details.

LibraryImp

An academic library’s purpose is to serve the needs of the faculty and students. The materials this type of library offer are primarily for college classes and to meet the need for research of various academic disciplines. Many of these items may be of use to the general public and helpful in the sense of learning and furthering one’s education and also for research in a variety of subjects.
While the general public may utilize and benefit from an academic library, this type of library will not carry the varied leisure reading needs for the range of ages a public library serves. Besides the materials for checkout and perusal at any type of library, a public library specializes in offering a space and place for the whole community to gather. Programs are offered for a variety of ages from book clubs to storytimes. Another aspect an academic library does not support is early literacy for young children who have not entered school nor can read yet. Academic libraries support those in academia; public libraries strive to serve everyone.

Mogie

Thanks for the info!

Mogie

But aren't programs like Head Start and all kindergarten classes doing basically the same thing. The problem I encountered in the first two grades was parents not preparing their kids for school. By that I mean a surprising number can't count (numbers or ABC's) or tell time. That holds up a child while they are learn what most kids already know. I have never heard of anyone deciding not to move to an area based on if there was a library or not. Good schools, well lit streets, sidewalks, a safe area, no drug houses or drug stuff (like syringes), not in a flood zone. Those are usually what most folks are interested in.

LibraryImp

A public library benefits even those who do not directly use the library by adding value to properties and making the community a desirable place for new families to move to. Public libraries improve skills in young children that prepare them to perform better academically when they start formal schooling. A better educated populace benefits the community as a whole by having a better prepared workforce and more job opportunities. Welfare, drug use, physical abuse all decrease with an increase in education. If you would like more information, I suggest researching at a library. Although feel free to peruse the internet for other sources as well. While a brick and mortar library or research database offered for free through a library may not be the sole source of information, it is a good place for vetted sources of information rather than the vast array of misinformation at the disposal of those with at least a smart phone and Wi-Fi connection. Plus libraries have librarians skilled in sifting through information sources.

PickNGrin

Major "brain drain," hidden costs and other issues are on the horizon after June 1 when librarians, computers and books are gone. And they've got $75K to mothball the building and work with to pay staff to develop a business model? Why isn't anyone raising additional funds? Sure seems like Roseburg could've stepped up to at least keep computers and catalogue systems running, even if behind closed doors. Even if the main branch closes, why not find ways to support and help outlying branches that are breaking their backs with hardworking volunteers? How long can they survive, especially if books can't be checked out? Roseburg really could've been proactive and encouraging as a headquarters hub. Instead, every outlying branch has to have bake sales, raise their own funds, ask people to donate books so some can be checked out, buy their own computers & software, etc. Yet, a boutique hotel study is on their list of priority action items for next year. Very sad!

CannaKing

...... dont forget about that $5 million dollar straightening of stewart parkway! That was WAY MORE IMPORTANT than any pesky little ol' library. /sarc

Mogie

UCC has a huge library. And like a previous article told us cards are apparently free to Douglas County residents. How much is the task force comprised of staff going to cost us?

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