The Douglas County Library Futures Task Force will soon transition to a nonprofit board running a nonprofit library hub that is focused on four main services to any of the branch libraries that re-open — the library catalog, library cards, maintaining and expanding the collection, and transporting books between libraries.
A new wrinkle in the task force’s plan to operate the hub in Roseburg came about when the Douglas County Board of Commissioners voted this week to transfer the Roseburg library building to the city of Roseburg. Until now, Roseburg has been the only city that does not own its library branch building.
“The library as it sits right now, the building, basically belongs to the city of Roseburg. Monday morning in the (Douglas County) commissioners’ meeting they basically transferred it to the city, so they have the building. I’ve yet to determine if that’s good or bad,” said Chairman Pat Fahey at the task force’s regular weekly meeting Thursday.
Eileen Kelley, Drain’s representative on the task force, said the city might find the county’s willingness to deed it the library building was like getting a “free puppy.”
“You’re the second person that’s said that,” Fahey said. “I had a Roseburg city councilor that told me it was a free puppy already.”
Fahey said he will ask the city to allow the nonprofit to use the amount of space currently used for collection operations.
Most of the county libraries shut down in April after the county government announced it could no longer afford to pay for the system. The Roseburg library closed at the end of May. The Roseburg City Council has directed city staff to come up with a business model for operating a city-run library, but there’s been no decision about when it might reopen. Four of the 11 former county library branches — Sutherlin, Oakland, Reedsport and Riddle — have already reopened, most with all-volunteer staffs. Gail Black, Myrtle Creek’s representative on the task force, said the library there plans to reopen in July, but not to sign an agreement with the county.
The fate of the libraries in some other towns, like Glendale and Drain, remains uncertain. Kelley said Drain’s library supporters are concerned about how independent the local library would be.
“They’re afraid that as this goes along, the independence of the individual libraries would begin to fade, and the hub policy, procedures will start to take over and we’ll have this huge thing that they don’t want,” she said.
She said some would rather go out on their own than return to restrictions on creativity they felt under the county-run system.
Fahey cautioned that the collection, which belongs to the county, must be controlled by the central hub. It’s basically books and library cards, he said, that the hub would control, while local libraries would control staffing and hours.
“The role of the hub is pretty limited,” he said.
Bryan McNutt, Glendale’s task force representative, said the city of Glendale has not decided whether to continue to provide the building for the library. If it doesn’t, he said, the library there will be dead.
Once the nonprofit hub is formed, the intergovernmental agreements cities have with the county would be void, and they’d make agreements with the hub instead. Several task force members suggested that county library cards that patrons already have should remain valid once the hub opens.