The glass is half full

GlassHalfFullAfter the failure of the library district measure last November, we knew we would feel the impact and were facing drastic changes, including the prospect of cutting programs and events.

What we didn’t know is that the community would rally for our libraries to keep them open and give us hope for the future.

The loss of the library district — and the $2.6 million in support it would have brought — still stings. If the district had passed, we would have been able to double library hours at all four branches — in Grants Pass, Williams, Wolf Creek, and the Illinois Valley (see current hours in the right sidebar). The additional funding could have repaired and modernized our collection of books and technology materials, allowing us to once again borrow materials across county lines with neighboring Jackson County. We would have hired a children’s librarian, supporting literacy and learning for generations to come.

Most importantly, with a library district we would have finally plugged the holes of our sinking ship, no longer dipping into a limited reserve to simply keep the doors open.

This was a tough loss for everyone who worked so hard to win this additional and needed support for our libraries.

YouTube Pirates

But rather than sit back and watch our ship sink, the community responded by rallying behind the Yellow Envelope Drive immediately following the election. People who had voted yes for the library district answered the call to donate what they would have paid in taxes. Almost 400 people sent in a donation with a median gift size of $60 — about what the average household would have paid in taxes if we had won public funding. This has made an incredible difference.

Because of the Yellow Envelope Drive, we have raised $180,000 for Josephine Community Libraries for the current fiscal year. That puts us $30,000 above our half-year goal for donations to pay for existing services.

This has allowed us to avoid dipping into reserves just to make ends meet and means we only need to raise $120,000 more by June 30 to meet our goal of raising $300,000 to maintain our library system—alleviating our worst fears.

YouTube Fear

If we are no longer sinking, then we are sustainable, an incredible accomplishment for Josephine Community Libraries. This gives us hope that we could possibly balance the budget this year (by June 30), or as some people say, we could “be in the black.” If we can rally our community to be a part of the Yellow Envelope Drive each year, then we can keep our libraries open.

Gratitude is the only word I know to describe the feeling everyone at the library expresses every day. Yes, we may not have a children’s librarian, adequate hours, or an updated collection of contemporary fiction and nonfiction, but we have a library — a well-loved library. I’d say, the library’s glass is half full; how about you?

KateLaskyHeadshotKate Lasky has been the executive director of Josephine Community Libraries, Inc. since 2010. She holds a master’s in education and serves on the Oregon Library Association Legislative and Development Committee.