Library lovers in Roseburg made their views abundantly clear in the November election. Unlike the county as a whole, the majority of Roseburg voters said they wanted to save their library by forming a countywide library district.

They didn’t get their way, but they should get to keep their library.

We had mixed feelings this week about the Roseburg City Council’s response to this crisis. On the one hand, we’re glad the city has voted to develop a business model for the city providing library services. And we’re glad it doesn’t want to settle for a “reading room” model — in which library patrons can read books on site but check nothing out. On the other hand, we can’t help asking: Why has it taken so long to get to this point?

It’s been evident for quite awhile that an acceptable long-range solution for the countywide library system will come slowly, if at all. Some cities figured that out right away. Cities like Reedsport, Sutherlin and Oakland moved quickly toward their own solutions.

Unwilling to see their libraries die, community members and city leaders in those towns were ready to reopen virtually the day their libraries closed down. They had dozens of volunteers signed up to staff their libraries. In Sutherlin, for example, where the library shutdown lasted a single day, a team of 50 volunteers has signed up to keep the library open as many hours as before closure. While they aren’t checking out the county-owned books, they’ve collected several hundred of their own that they are checking out. Reedsport plans to put its own regional district up for a vote this November. Riddle, which plans a June reopening, and Reedsport are working on obtaining catalog systems so they can check out the county-owned books at their branches. These cities have become examples that others, including Roseburg, should seriously consider following.

Libraries in some communities remain closed, awaiting some action from the county. It’s their patrons who have suffered from that miscalculation, and if Roseburg doesn’t move very quickly, their library patrons will suffer as well. A community without a library is a poorer, and ultimately a dumber one. Roseburg owes it to its citizens to give them what they voted for — a library whose doors remain open. We hope to see a solid plan for how to do that emerge as soon as possible.

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