Something terrible happened. On February 23 the Illinois Valley branch of our library system was ransacked and vandalized. When our branch manager and volunteers discovered the children’s library toys thrown out on the lawn and the front door glass broken, they were shocked, heartbroken, and angry that someone could do something so wrong. The vandals cut phone and electrical lines, stole items, and opened every drawer and cabinet looking for cash. We called the sheriff’s office and they were quick to respond and file a report, noting that other break-ins had occurred around the valley over the previous two weeks. Within hours of the event, news spread throughout the community, and the local glass company had repaired the front door before I left work at 5 pm that day. Then something truly amazing happened.
People throughout the entire state of Oregon reached out to us. Within 24 hours, donations and condolences flooded our mailboxes. The Oregon State Librarian contacted me to ask if there was anything the State Library could do to support us. Librarians from Washington County Cooperative Library Services pooled resources and donated $2,000. Oregon Public Broadcasting reporter John Sepulvado interviewed our founding board member Jennifer Roberts and shared the story during the February 28 Sunday Conversation. News spread across the nation, and donations of support came in from Colorado, Georgia, Idaho, New York, Virginia, and more. Total donations brought in for the branch have come to $11,542. Any additional funds will be used to support the children’s library renovation project at the Illinois Valley branch.
Local businesses stepped up to rally support. Compassionate Dentistry donated 50 percent of a day’s proceeds and the Powderhorn Café partnered with Securing Our Safety to raise money for library repairs, and for a reward for information leading to the arrest of the vandals. So far no one has stepped forward. If you have knowledge about the incident, please contact Deputy Sheriff Lehman at the Josephine County Sheriff’s Office at 541-218-5164.
It’s amazing how, time and time again, our community comes together to support our libraries. This outpouring of support not only helped to pay for the damages to the branch not covered by insurance, but also it lifted our spirits and made everyone who has worked so hard to keep our libraries open feel like their work mattered. We were restored.
Like the Chinese fable of The Farmer’s Son, sometimes great tragedy results in good fortune, and no matter how much we’d prefer to undo the bad things that have happened, they are often times the very things that make us great.
Thank you to everyone who has sent in donations to support the Illinois Valley branch — all the librarians across the state and the nation, the local businesses and donors, and the volunteers.
If you’d like to get involved and hang out with a few of these amazing people, join us this week at Rogue Roasters for a fundraiser for the Illinois Valley branch featuring music by the Honey Bee Choir during the First Friday celebration on April 1 from 6–9 pm, 610 SW 6th Street in Grants Pass. A $5 donation is requested at the door, but the event is open to everyone.
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. In 2015, she was honored by the with the Ole award which annually recognizes an Oregon public library employee who has displayed exceptional effort and excellence.