Fog began to clear as residents gathered in front of the steps of the Drain Public Library on Saturday morning. They waited eagerly to enter for the first time in 20 months.
The library is open again thanks to the passage of a May tax levy to fund the library and grant support from The Whipple Foundation Fund of The Oregon Community Foundation.
Over 70 people showed up to watch the ribbon cutting, obtain new library cards and look through stacks of books. People said they were happy to have a community gathering place where they could bring their families again.
The ribbon cutting ceremony began with an introduction from recently-elected mayor Justin Cobb. He arrived about 15 minutes late to the event scheduled at 10 a.m. because he is a local first-responder and had to respond to a car accident on Highway 38.
“I am beyond thrilled that we’re getting this library reopened,” Cobb said from the podium on the library’s front steps. He thanked the crowd for passing the tax levy.
Candy Vickery, a former school librarian who will serve as the Drain librarian until the board can find a permanent librarian, also spoke to the crowd.
“I can’t even tell you how excited people have been,” Vickery said. “The amount of people who have come up and peeked through the windows at us while we were in here working. And how many people who have come up and knocked on the windows and asked us, ‘Are you open?’”
People in Drain have always valued their library and they were devastated when it closed, according to Vickery. A failed 2016 ballot measure to keep the county’s library system open still passed in Drain. The town’s spring tax levy to fund the library passed with 76 percent of the vote. For every $1,000 of property tax, 44 cents will go to the library.
Since the library’s board of directors formed in the spring, board members have met twice a month to plan, survey other libraries, attend library workshops and establish sole ownership of the library’s original collection.
Vickery said a group of 21 volunteers purchased new books, washed and re-barcoded each of the 6,000 books in the collection and entered all the books into a new database for the library over the summer.
“People really wanted this,” Vickery said.
Lolly Frost, 13, cut the ribbon after the speeches concluded.
Seven years ago, when Frost was 6, the library was facing funding issues and Frost wanted to help. “I just didn’t want the library to go away,” Frost said.
She got an Easy-Bake Oven for Christmas and started baking cookies to raise money to donate to the library. She didn’t put a price on them, but with the help of community members who matched her earnings, she raised nearly $5,000.
The money, along with a $25,000 donation from the Whipple Foundation Fund, helped the library open before property tax money could be collected in late November.
Frost said she’s happy she could help reopen the library because she has always loved books, particularly fiction.
The library will serve as a much-needed community resource for people of all ages, said Anne Campbell, president of the new special district board of directors and granddaughter of Mildred Whipple. Whipple established the community’s original library.
The library will provide services such as early literacy programs and a knitting groups for seniors, according to Campbell.
Campbell was amazed at the support she received from the community leading up the the passage of the tax levy.
“People came up and said things like, ‘I have never checked out a book, but that’s where I learned to use a computer,’” Campbell said. “He was a mill worker who had never used a computer before but he needed to learn for a new job.”
Campbell is particularly proud the board was able to secure membership to the Oregon Digital Library Consortium.
“When our patrons get a library card, they will have access to over 35,000 audiobooks and e-books,” Campbell said as people lined up behind her inside the library to get new cards.