When Drain’s Mildred Whipple Library closed in 2017, the small, rural community lost a hub that served all ages.
Thanks to the will of the voters, the tenacity of an active group of volunteers and a grant from The Whipple Foundation Fund of The Oregon Community Foundation that sped up the process, Drain residents will see all of those services restored this month.
A ribbon cutting ceremony is scheduled for 10 a.m. on Saturday, after which the library will be open to the public until 4 p.m.
Lolly Frost will perform the ribbon cutting. The 13-year-old began raising money for the library when she was only 6 years old. A magician will perform at 1 p.m.
With the reopening, the library will again be a provider of early literacy programs, a teen homework hangout, a resource for using the internet and searching for jobs, a gathering place for senior citizens, and, of course, a place to check out newfound and favorite books.
“In a small, rural community that is largely low-income, the library is vital for a lot of reasons,” said Valarie Johns, a member of the board of directors for the new library district and formerly one of the Friends of the Library.
“People are counting down,” she continued. “They’re so excited.”
The library, along with all others in Douglas County, closed in Spring 2017 after a tax measure failed on the November 2016 ballot. The libraries had previously been funded by the county.
The measure had narrowly passed in Drain, a town of close to 1,100 people.
Volunteers regrouped in the months following, meeting with and surveying the community to determine the next steps.
“We wanted to know what they wanted us to do,” said Anne Campbell, president of the new special district board of directors and whose late grandmother, Mildred Whipple, was also the library namesake and benefactor. “Overwhelmingly they told us they wanted a full-service library that was open more hours.”
The Whipple Foundation Fund of The Oregon Community Foundation was established by Mildred Whipple in 2003 to “improve, facilitate and enhance lifelong learning for the citizens of Douglas County.” Its current focus includes supporting the reopening of libraries in Douglas County.
“Libraries, literacy and Douglas County were things that were very important to my grandma,” Campbell said.
The fund’s contributions to the project included a grant of about $5,000 early on that helped volunteers publicize the value of libraries and work through legal issues to get a measure on the ballot.
After the measure passed, the fund contributed another $25,000 to the project. Without the funding, the library would not have collected any funding until at least late November when property owners paid taxes. It would not have been ready to open until January or February.
These funds made it possible to hire staff, secure insurance and other essentials, re-catalog the entire existing collection after negotiating ownership from the county, and to purchase new books for the first time in a couple of years.
“Our citizens want their library open,” Campbell said. “When our doors open our patrons can come in and see a brand new library with brand new books.”
The Whipple fund and other OCF funds made additional contributions to libraries in Douglas County, including helping to reopen what had previously been the main branch in Roseburg.
Local retired school librarian Candy Vickery will be the Drain librarian for approximately the first six months, while the board completes a search for a permanent librarian.
The board has hired two library assistants. About four or five volunteers have worked in the space every day in recent months.
The new library will be open four days a week, for a total of 24 hours each week, more expansive hours than it kept when it was a county service.