People flocked into the Roseburg Public Library on Thursday as soon as the doors opened for the first time in more than a year and a half.
Giddy community members of all ages looked through the stacks and applied for new library cards as volunteers welcomed people for the soft opening at 1 p.m.
It marks the beginning of regular hours for the new city library after voters decided to end funding for the county library system in 2016. The library and its new partners, the Douglas Education Service District, will hold a grand opening on Jan. 10.
A half hour after the doors opened, more than 140 people had purchased books at a book sale in the Ford Family Room, according to Marcy Belzner, a volunteer with Friends of the Library.
“It’s so exciting,” Belzner said. “I’ve nearly been in tears all day. This is what book hunger looks like.”
Belzner said she was overwhelmed by the number of people browsing through the books for sale, which volunteers weeded out of the library’s old collection in preparation for the reopening.
Construction of new meeting rooms and offices for ESD staff moving to the new shared location reduced the space for the library. Belzner said volunteers maintained two-thirds of the original book collection even though the library is one-third of the original space.
The book sale will continue every day until the end of January during regular hours. Hardbacks and large paperbacks cost 50 cents and small paperbacks and children’s books cost 25 cents. The money will go toward adding books to the collection and funding new library programs.
Fifteen-year-old South Umpqua High School student Kaana Fye held a stack of books nearly up to her chin. She planned to buy what she could carry and come back for more.
“You can never have too many books,” Fye said. “Half of these I’ve never seen before. And if you think about it, when you learn something from them, guess what, that’s more knowledge that you don’t have to pay for later.”
Fye wasn’t particularly excited for any one of her new books, she was excited for them all, she said.
While the book sale stayed busy hours after the doors first opened, people in the main area lined up to register new library cards and check out books. Kids used crayons in Oregon Cultural Trust coloring books set out on the tables in the Deer Creek room. Teens logged onto computers in the new young adult area — an age-specific space that the old library lacked.
Myrtle Creek resident Alvin Helgeson flipped through “Scared to Live” by Stephen Booth as he stood between the stacks. He said he had no problem paying the annual $60 library card fee for non-Roseburg residents. The fee became controversial leading up to the library reopening because all county residents used to be able to become members for free.
“I read quite a few English mysteries,” Helgeson said. “It has cost me a fortune since the library closed because I’ve had to buy the books. So I’m glad to see the library open again.”
He said he used to come to the library once a week before it closed. He hopes the collection expands, but he thinks the lack of countywide funding may impede the library’s ability to get new books from his favorite authors such as Booth. While he’s happy the library is open, he will miss the days when all the libraries in the county — many of which have already reopened — could trade books within the common collection.
Some parts of the facility, such as the children’s library, aren’t open yet, and many Roseburg Library Commission projects are still ongoing. The commission will continue to assess potential book trading systems with other local libraries, according to Library Director Kris Wiley.
The commission is also trying to establish a donation system that will allow low-income people living outside of Roseburg to apply for a library card for free, said Adrienne Groves, an AmeriCorps participant with the city who has been working with the commission. People who use the federal Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program would be able to qualify for a free library card.
“We’ve just had so many people in the community who said they wanted to donate to help people get cards,” Groves said.
The grand opening of the library on Jan. 10 will feature performances from ventriloquist Steve Chaney and the Jo Lane Middle School Jazz Band.
Regular hours are 1 to 8 p.m. on Tuesdays and Thursdays, 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Wednesdays and Fridays and 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Saturdays.