There is no Why — only How

I’m often asked why I do what I do — keeping our public libraries open with no regular funding from taxes year after year, especially when Josephine County continues to vote against public funding for both libraries and public safety. “Why do you live in Josephine County?”

For me, the answer is simple — because of the 80/20 rule. The 20 percent who work, volunteer, donate, read, and care transform our community, multiplying their impact beyond the 80 percent. While there may be good people everywhere, there are none as resilient as those who keep libraries open in Josephine County. Watch the video:

A quick primer: The libraries in Josephine County closed on May 17, 2007. Four months later, committed community members formed Josephine Community Libraries, Inc., a nongovernmental, nonprofit organization dedicated to ensuring long-term library services for every county resident. By December 2009, JCLI had reopened all four shuttered locations in Grants Pass, Williams, Wolf Creek, and the Illinois Valley. They continue to operate thanks to generous donations and the heroic contributions of more than 350 volunteers working an average of 500 hours a week to keep the libraries open.

PrecinctsOur libraries are underfunded, along with the county jail, juvenile justice, the district attorney’s office, and public health — we are in good company. With the slow elimination of the O&C funds for federal timber holdings in southern Oregon, and the downturn of the U.S. economy in 2009, lack of funding for any public service is the new normal for Josephine County.

So, why fight; why stay in Josephine County; why work so hard for libraries?

Because when you add up the volunteer time, the donor support, and the patron lives transformed, with the cost of a free public library, you get a non-zero sum. Meaning, everyone wins. For our libraries, each day we work to build something together is better than what we started with, and promises a better future.

But, I stopped asking “why” a long time ago — now, I only ask “how.” How would you like to see libraries grow in Josephine County?

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.