Sunday, February 25, 2007

How Can They Let This Happen?

The article's subtitle tells it all: "County libraries get ready to shut down April 6 from a lack of funding." When I spotted this Mail Tribune article I almost passed it by, thinking that it was just another article about a library being shut down temporarily while renovations to the building were being completed. It seems to be happening a lot lately in Harris County, Texas, where I live and I assumed that the article was just going to explain the alternatives that library patrons had while the work was underway. But something about the length of the article made me take a second look. How can this be allowed to happen, Oregon?
Talent's new library will open today with much fanfare even as all 15 Jackson County branches set in motion a timetable to mothball the system indefinitely after their closure April 6.

This twist of fate doesn't faze local donors who have put their heart and soul into the new building next to City Hall. The donors have opened their pocketbooks to enlarge the meeting room and teen section and make other improvements.

"Once voters understand the real situation, they will take action," said Patricia Remencuis, who, along with her husband, donated $10,000 to the Talent library and got four grants that have paid for a larger facility than originally was planned for the site.

Even as the couple proudly show off the new facility, Jackson County officials are preparing the public for the closure of all branches after they have been remodeled or rebuilt primarily from $38.9 million in bonds OK'd by voters in 2000 and designated for new library construction countywide.
After the library in Medford shuts down to the public, it will remain open to Rogue Community College students only. RCC has an agreement with the county to use part of the library space.

"We will have a security guard at the door to check ID," said Stark. "You will have to have an RCC ID to check in."

After the closure, library workers will spend a week putting all the books that have been checked out back on the shelves.

On April 13, the equivalent of 80 full-time library jobs will be terminated. Stark is one of six employees who will stay on to maintain the mothballed system.

All the materials and equipment will remain in place until the May election.

So it's "put up or shut up" time for the voters of southern Oregon. And, under the rules governing this particular election, long term survival of the library system seems far from assured. The proposed tax increase will hit Jackson County property owners hard in the pocket book and they already rejected a similar proposal in a November 2006 vote. Maybe this time they will realize what they are about to lose. Here's hoping.


  1. Heartbreaking. I really don't know what I'd do without the library, and I've taken it for granted that it would always be open and available. At present, there doesn't seem to be any threat here, but the article serves as a reminder of what CAN happen.

  2. I can hardly believe that a county would let it come to this, Jenclair. Someone must have badly mismanaged the situation before now, and it looks like they may be just about to pay the ultimate price. It's got to be embarrassing to those in that part of Oregon who let it happen by assuming that it was impossible. Very sad, indeed.

  3. How sad. I'm fortunate enough at the moment to own a lot of books and don't have too much of problem getting a new one now and then. But there was a time when, if I wanted to read a book, I had to go to the library. The majority of books I read as a child were borrowed from the library, and to this day I have a weird fondness for those library cards they stamped with the due date.

    I know there are many people who will never read without access to a library and it breaks my heart to think that these libraries won't be available to them.

  4. Very true, Anne...and I still consider my local library to be the source of at least half of what I read because I simply don't have the room to house everything that I want to read. I also use the library to sample new writers and to go back and read some of the classics and other books that I've missed over the years. I would find it hard to live without a good library system near by, that's for sure. It makes me feel very sad for those folks up in Oregon who will suffer if worse comes to worst in this instance.