People can typically hear a pin drop at the new Roseburg Public Library. But not on Thursday night.
The grand opening of the library was a celebration. It also served to acknowledge people who helped bring back the library after more than a year and a half since voters elected to defund the county library system. The Roseburg library is one of several libraries in Douglas County, including those in Drain, Sutherlin and Riddle, that have reopened since 2017.
At the grand opening in Roseburg, city officials and library partners gave speeches to more than a hundred people who clapped and cheered for a ribbon-cutting ceremony. The library also unveiled the new Mildred Whipple Children’s Room, which features stacks of children’s books, giant Legos and ceiling-high, wooden bookshelves shaped like trees.
Soon after kids flooded into the children’s room, they were drawn back out for a performance by ventriloquist Steve Chaney. People scanned the stacks and chatted while the Jo Lane Middle School Jazz Band played jazz classics such as “In The Mood.”
“It’s incredible,” said Library Director Kris Wiley. “People are having so much fun.”
Wiley admitted she was nervous leading up to the grand opening, however. She was presented with a bouquet of flowers before the ribbon cutting.
The library has been open 10 days since its soft opening on Dec. 27. Since then, more than 3,500 items have been checked out and 1,249 people have signed up for a new library card, according to library staff.
People were signing up for library cards continuously during the grand opening. The line outside the teen room went out the door at times.
Cards are available for free to Roseburg residents and students in the district. People who live outside the city pay a $60 annual fee for membership.
A storage pod full of the old library’s collection couldn’t be maintained in the new collection, according to Marcy Belzner, a volunteer with Friends of the Library. A daily book sale for the books from the old collection has received between $200 and $300 each day, Belzner said. Books cost 25 and 50 cents at the book sale.
City Manager Lance Colley, who played an integral role in reopening the library, said during his speech that it wasn’t easy and that people didn’t know how they could make it happen at times.
John Moriarty, with the Oregon Community Foundation — one of the library’s donors — said reopening the library couldn’t have been possible without community philanthropy. He thanked the Douglas Education Service District, which is now a library partner and has offices in the library building, the Crane Creek Family Fund, the Olsrud Family Fund, the McDermott Fund and the Whipple Foundation Fund, which also helped reopen the Mildred Whipple Library in Drain.
The motivation to reopen the library came from the community’s children, Colley said. When the city was first considering how to reopen the library, Colley said he and other community members visited Melrose Elementary students. The students made it clear that the library was important to them.
“It’s pretty inspirational when kids in our community say, ‘We need a library,’” Colley said. “Not, ‘We want a library.’ ‘We need a library.’”