The Douglas County Library Futures Task Force voted Thursday to recommend that a centralized library hub be run by a 501c3 corporation with a board of directors that would include representatives from each of the 11 cities with a branch library, along with a handful of others.
The task force also voted in favor of a proposed $495,000 annual budget for the hub, which would include salaries for three employees. The hub would manage the collection, and provide catalog and courier services. Each branch library would be operated by individual cities or Friends of the Library groups in those cities, mostly with volunteer staff. Now that a budget’s been settled on, the task force will begin seeking funding sources to pay for the hub’s operations.
Also Thursday, member-at-large Pat Fahey was selected to represent the task force to the Douglas County Board of Commissioners. Fahey is the owner of Sutherlin Sanitary Service, but hails from Josephine County, where he was active in the recent successful effort to form a new library district. Josephine County libraries had closed down for lack of funds and then reopened with limited hours and volunteer staff while under management by a nonprofit. Fahey will take over leadership of the task force from Commissioner Gary Leif.
The task force charged Fahey with going to the Douglas County Library Foundation to seek help in forming a nonprofit.
He’ll also reach out to the Oregon Solutions program — a partnership between the governor’s office and Portland State University. Oregon Solutions has experience going into cities and counties with funding problems and helping them succeed at financing their programs. Leif said he hopes the foundation will foot the bill for Oregon Solutions’ help.
Fahey will also present the task force’s plan to the Douglas County Board of Commissioners.
The task force decided its own members should make up the initial board of directors for the nonprofit, and serve one-year terms. Each city with a branch would have a director to represent its interests. The board, like the task force, would also have representatives of the Save our Libraries Political Action Committee, the library foundation and the Library Advisory Board.
Linda Middlekauf, the task force’s representative for those who voted no on a library taxing district, asked that her position be changed to an at-large position. Since Fahey’s currently an at-large task force member, there would be two at-large positions on the board. Some task force members said they’d like to see those positions ultimately filled by people who lived outside any city’s limits so that rural county residents have representation.
Three task force positions, the county commissioner, the library opponent and the library staff member, would not be included on the nonprofit’s board.
Task force members praised Leif for his work with the task force over the past three months, saying he had taken a significant interest in the project, worked hard and shown positive leadership.
Bryan McNutt of Glendale said when the task force started, he thought it was going to be little more than a “shell game.”
But Leif put a lot more work into the library task force than would have been necessary if that was the case, McNutt said.
Gary Waugaman, library foundation representative on the task force, said he’s concerned that people who voted against the tax district will feel vindicated now that the task force is working toward a $490,000 hub instead of a $3.8 million county library system. But the biggest difference, he said, is that $2.5 million would have been spent on salaries and benefits for 45 employees under the district, while the system now being proposed calls for just three paid employees.
“I think people are going to say, ‘Oh golly aren’t we smart, we voted down the taxing district and we can do it with $500,000.’ Well, yeah, but you’ve lost 42 full time employees and you’re dealing with an almost all entirely volunteer system,” he said.
While many libraries are moving forward with volunteers, Drain library supporters are struggling to find the volunteers to reopen their branch. A public meeting Thursday drew 29 people, but not all signed up to volunteer, Drain representative Eileen Kelley reported. A second meeting is planned at 2 p.m. Saturday at the Drain Civic Center, 205 West A Ave.