The Roseburg branch library is likely to close at the end of this month, but city councilors have made their first step toward opening those doors again in the future.
At its meeting Monday night, the Roseburg City Council voted unanimously to have staff develop a business model outlining how the city could provide library services. The Roseburg branch is set to close at the end of May.
The Douglas County Board of Commissioners, faced with the loss of federal timber safety net payments, will not fund library services in the coming fiscal year. All smaller branch libraries closed last month, though a few have reopened under city management.
Roseburg stands alone from other branches in that the county owns its building, not just the books and equipment within it. Other cities, by contrast, own their library buildings. County commissioners have agreed to give Roseburg $25,000 to prevent the library building from “mothballing” — that is, deteriorating from inattention.
The Ford Family Foundation donated the funds needed to build the 36,000-square-foot Roseburg branch specifically for library services. It’s much larger than other city branches, so it will be much more expensive to maintain.
Like the other branches, Roseburg will get to keep the book collection within its library. However, the county will take away its computer equipment, since it contains proprietary software.
The city of Roseburg only has $50,000 set aside in next year’s fiscal year budget for the library. That’s the amount it has paid the county each year toward the cost of maintaining the library building. It’s not enough money to keep the library open even as a reading room — a place where people can read books but cannot check them out.
Riddle is moving forward with a plan to reopen its library and even check out books.
Prior to its regular meeting, the council held a special meeting to assign action items to its list of city goals for the coming two years. No one mentioned the library during that meeting.
Sutherlin, Oakland and Reedsport have been more proactive. They’ve opened their libraries again as reading rooms, by using all-volunteer staffing, and Riddle this week gained permission from the county to pursue obtaining its own cataloging system so it could check out books once it reopens in June. Roseburg, however, has waited it out, waiting for potential next steps from county commissioners. Those next steps never came.
“Basically, the county system as we know it is dead,” Councilor Brian Prawitz told the council. He represents Roseburg on the Douglas County Library Futures Task Force, led by Commissioner Gary Leif.
“It became clear to me that the system was dead at the meeting last Monday, when the county commissioners made it clear that at this point, they’re done providing library services,” he added. “Which is what they’ve been saying for a very long time.”
The county will provide the $25,000 for building maintenance, it will take away the computers, and it will leave the book collection behind. Otherwise, Roseburg is on its own.
Prawitz said the city had a few options to choose from. The first and potentially least expensive was the reading room model. The second was a “reading room plus” model, in which people could check out books. Finally, it could have staff develop a business model that could potentially fund a city library system.
Laura Burnett, the regional director of the private library management company, Library Syst…
City Manager Lance Colley said he doubted the city could come up with a means of keeping its library open by June 1. He did not recommend councilors go with the reading room model.
“I don’t think that’s a library,” Colley said. “And I don’t want the city of Roseburg to get blamed for the failure of a library system that’s been operated by somebody else for 70 years and tossed in our lap. That’s pretty blunt, and I’m not usually that blunt about things, but we’re pretty proud of the services we provide. And this is not one of them. If you want to take it on, I really would implore you, let’s do it right.”
The city could put a measure on the ballot to form its own library taxing district. A similar countywide district measure failed last November, but Roseburg residents voted in favor of it.
If the city were to put its own district on the ballot, which would create a revenue stream from Roseburg landowners’ property taxes, that would not happen until November. If it failed, then the city could try again in May. If it passes during either month, then the new funding would not begin until the following fiscal year. That means the city faces more than a year wait.
Douglas Education Service District wants to move into the Douglas County Library’s Roseburg …
The Douglas County Education Service District has proposed moving into the Roseburg branch. If that happens, it could provide some staff oversight, but the ESD hasn’t offered to pay rent.