Time to invest in the future of our libraries

Guest blog by Judy Williams

For the past eight years I have volunteered at the library in Grants Pass and Williams, and in that work I’ve seen how important our libraries are for families, businesses and communities. I’ve helped families check out stacks of books each week, and have seen the joy of children signing up for their own library cards. I’ve watched small business owners find invaluable resources in our databases. And most importantly, I’ve witnessed our library providing a sense of community for so many of our patrons.

Throughout my time working in the libraries, however, I’ve also seen how many resources we can’t provide because of our limited budget. And each year I watch our dedicated, creative staff and volunteers spend time fundraising rather than doing what they love most: providing library services to the community.

That’s why I support Measure 17-79, which will create the Josephine Community Library District, a noncontiguous district surrounding the library branches in Grants Pass, Illinois Valley, Williams and Wolf Creek.

That’s also why I’m running for the newly elected board of this district. In that role, I’ve heard many questions about the proposed district, questions like the following.

How much will it cost?
The rate for the Josephine Community Library District will be 39 cents per $1,000 of assessed property value for owners within the boundaries of the library district. This rate means that the owner of a house assessed at $200,000 would pay $78 per year, or $6.50 per month.

Will the county now be running the district? No. The Josephine Community Library District will be completely independent of county government.

How do I know whether or not I’m in the district? You can find out by going to keepourlibrariesopen.com, where you’ll find a list of included precincts and an interactive map that will tell you, based on your address, whether or not you’re included in the district.

I live outside of the proposed district. Does that mean I won’t be able to use the library? Not at all! Library leadership anticipates there will be four ways to use the library: 1) purchase a library card, 2) fill out paperwork to join the district, 3) use the library as a reading room, and 4) volunteer your time to receive a card.

Library leadership is committed to providing service to as many people as possible by working together to provide scholarships and aid, and we are especially committed to providing sponsorship for kids’ cards for all children in Josephine County.

What will I get with this district that the library doesn’t already provide? More hours, a better collection of books and materials, and stable funding.

How do the libraries in Josephine County compare with the libraries in the rest of Oregon?
Unfortunately, Josephine County residents have the lowest levels of library service in the state of Oregon. According to every measure—operating expenditure per capita, staff expenditure per capita, number of staff per 1,000 population, library hours per 1,000 population, and circulation per capita—the libraries in Josephine County rank last. (Source: State of Oregon’s Public Libraries, May 2016.)

Will you still use volunteers in the library?
The projected district budget was built assuming the ongoing contribution of labor and expertise of the generous library volunteers, without whom Josephine County would currently have no library system whatsoever.

I am dedicated to ensuring continuation and enhancement of our volunteer culture. Everyone has worked hard to keep the libraries open with no regular funding from taxes. We’ve put the community back in the library, and as an elected board member I will actively work to retain that valuable culture in our library system.

With a stable, ongoing source of funding, our libraries will help us connect to each other and to an ever-changing world, allowing us opportunities to talk, share, learn, teach, and grow.

Please vote for the libraries on May 16!

Judy Williams lived most of her adult life in Honolulu where she held a variety of corporate management positions. Following her retirement in 2002, she and her husband settled in Williams where they have been enjoying the beauty and tranquility of Southern Oregon for the past 14 years. For more information about the library district effort, email info@keepourlibrariesopen.com.