They heard music, they spoke about what the Douglas County Library in Roseburg had meant to them. They took one last look around the place, and they thanked the library staff for their service.
The vigil for the Roseburg library’s final hour Wednesday evening was something like a wake, symbolized by a cardboard coffin painted black.
The Roseburg branch is the last of the county’s 11 libraries to close due to a lack of county funding. The smaller libraries closed in April, though some have already reopened with all or mostly volunteer staff. A county task force and the city of Roseburg are still trying to cobble together some sort of future for the Roseburg library. But as of 6 p.m. Wednesday, it’s closed.
Bob Allen of Roseburg said the government’s priorities are screwed up when the city is straightening the S-curves on Stewart Parkway while the library is closing.
“Shutting this library down is evil. There’s no other way of looking at it,” he said.
Beverly Paulson said a library “is a reflection of a community.” Closing it has brought this community negative publicity throughout the state, she said. “The nation,” called out several onlookers, an apparent reference to a May New York Times article that discussed the county’s financial crisis and its library closures.
“It is certainly a sad chapter in our history,” she said.
“Obviously this is a sad day for us all,” said Douglas County Commissioner Gary Leif. “I’m sorry. I wish I had better news for you.”
He said of the county’s 11 branches, nine have already either reopened or plan to reopen.
“I believe Roseburg will open again,” he said.
Bob Heilman, a supporter of the library district plan that failed to win voter approval in November, said it was truly a sad day, and one he wished hadn’t come.
“So many people I’m looking at right now worked so hard to prevent it,” he said.
After the speeches were done, Ann Vaughn of Roseburg told The News-Review it’s an emotional time. She got her library card when she moved to Roseburg 40 years ago. For her, the library’s been a source of recipes, reference books and fiction throughout those years.
Vaughn was crushed when the library district didn’t pass and when the closure was announced.
“I saw that as a sign of what kind of world we live in now,” she said. “It’s very sad.”
Al Walker of Roseburg wore black clothes and a black top hat because, he said, it’s a wake for the library. When he was a kid growing up in Ohio, his mother used to take him to the library on hot summer days, and that’s where he learned his love of reading. The librarian used to help him pick out books and even saved some for his visits that she thought he would like.
Walker, a library volunteer, had hoped the library would receive full funding through a district tax and maybe expand technological training and obtain a 3-D printer. Libraries, he said, “expand the horizons of knowledge for our children.”
Karen Bennett has lived in Roseburg since 1974, and used to bring her seven children to the Roseburg library. Library day was a happy day for her kids, she said.
“I’m going to be optimistic and do whatever I can to help,” she said.
Seeing the library close made Beth Brown think about moving someplace else.
“You can’t have a civil society without certain kinds of public amenities and services,” she said.
For Sandy Black, the library closure means early retirement. Black is the circulation supervisor and has worked at the library for 28 years. It’s very sad the library is closing, she said, but it was nice to have the support from the people who attended the vigil.
“It’s nice not to see an empty building as we make our final announcement that we’re closing,” she said.
At 6 p.m., Library Director Harold Hayes locked the door, and library staff members put up two signs, one saying “Library,” and the other, “Closed.”