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    Posted April 5, 2014 by
    jenroberts
    Location
    Grants Pass, Oregon
    Assignment
    Assignment
    This iReport is part of an assignment:
    Your favorite libraries

    When a Community Loves its Library

     

    CNN PRODUCER NOTE     Jennifer Roberts is a writing teacher and has spent years with her daughters Lucy and Miriam visiting their local library in Grant Pass, Oregon. But in 2007, a number of reasons caused the shutdown of all the libraries in Josephine County, including the library that Roberts and her daughters would frequent. ‘Lucy told me she was really sad she wouldn’t get to “visit the books,”’ Roberts said, explaining that Lucy started sobbing when she heard the news of the library closure. Her daughter’s reaction inspired Roberts to find a way to help reopen the libraries in her area. She, other patrons and community members raised more than $300,000 in 18 months through fundraisers to reopen the libraries. Josephine County also agreed to give a $300,000 matching grant. Once the libraries reopened, volunteers came in to help out these local libraries. Roberts says it made her realize that the most special quality of her library is the people. ‘It’s really astonishing how much love our volunteers have for our library,’ she said. These libraries have more than 400 volunteers who shelve and catalogue books, and some even help vacuum. Nowadays, she and her daughters go to their library once every couple weeks during the school year. ‘I actually didn’t grow up visiting many libraries,’ Roberts said. ‘I didn’t discover that wonder until I was much older. Perhaps that’s why they seem so magical to me now. Libraries are a symbol of our human need to connect to ideas, to culture, and to each other.'

    Photo credit: Tonya Harboldt
    - Jareen, CNN iReport producer

    My favorite library is the one my community built, together.

     

    When it was announced in April 2007 that the libraries in my town would close, my 7-year-old daughter was devastated. She sobbed. I promised her that I would do whatever I could to help reopen "her library."

     

    The next month, the libraries in all of Josephine County closed, leaving 85,000 people with no access to any library whatsoever. A group of citizens banded together to form Josephine Community Libraries (www.josephinelibrary.org), promising their friends and neighbors they would do whatever it took to reopen "our library."

     

    The reasons for the closure are complicated, having to do with the end of a decades-old federal subsidy meant to reimburse county governments for the loss of income from logging on federal lands.

     

    The bottom line was that our county government used money that had been intended for libraries for other things.

     

    After 18 months of fundraising--grants, donations, even school penny drives--Josephine Community Libraries reopened the libraries in December 2008, and it has continued to operate them ever since with only grants, donations, and business sponsorships.

     

    Since reopening, the library has been enormously successful, with double-digit growth year-over-year. The library is always buzzing, filled with children and parents, job-hunters, community groups, and smiles.

     

    Now, hoping for a stable funding source, citizens are once again banding together to ask voters to approve a taxing district for its libraries. Josephine County voters will be asked to make that decision in November 2014.

     

    If our library finally gets stable funding, I'll have felt like I helped fulfill that promise to my daughter.

     

    If it doesn't, I'll still be in love with my library, this shabby little building filled with knowledge and culture. And I'll be forever inspired by what my community has achieved.

     

     

    ***
    A wonderful video about our library was produced by the Oregon Cultural Trust and can be seen here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=emc5psDP5dk

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