Library district next steps

Guest Opinion in the June 13 edition of the Grants Pass Daily Courier

by JCLI Executive Director Kate Lasky

On May 17, 2007, our community’s libraries were closed due to lack of funding.

Ten years later to the day, on May 17, 2017, we began planning a new chapter in the library’s story with the passage of Measure 17-79, creating a new, independent library district with stable funding. For 10 years, the libraries were supported by generous donors and the heroic contributions of more than 360 volunteers annually.

Thank you to all the donors and volunteers who’ve kept our libraries open. Because of you, children like my own young son (who is now nine years old) have had access to books, literacy, and have learned to truly love reading. You’ve made it possible for the next generation, regardless of economic status, to have the benefit from the free Summer Reading Program, weekly storytimes, Young Master Gardeners, e-books, Internet access, and so much more. You’ve kept the light of knowledge burning in Josephine County, and for that our community will be forever transformed.

Ten years. Ten years of hard work, inspiration, and disappointment. Ten years of donor drives, grant-writing, and fundraising events. Ten years of people coming together to provide one of the basic services of a thriving community: a beloved library.

This past election, we placed a measure on the ballot to permanently fund the libraries, which passed by 53 percent of the vote.

We can hardly believe it. Excitement and joy are everywhere in the library now that we know, beyond a doubt, that we will have a library in Josephine County for generations to come.

The JCLI Board of Directors stands ready to hand over the reins to the elected library district board, but the district won’t begin receiving tax funding until November. We want to start the district off right, so during this transition time, JCLI plans to continue providing all the services and programming our community relies on.

Our hope is to operate the libraries during this transition so that the newly formed district doesn’t begin its tenure saddled with debt, but instead can plan for the future instead of paying for the past. The JCLI board has always regarded the nonprofit model as a temporary bridge to public funding. That “temporary bridge” will continue to serve its purpose over the next few months as the district board gets up and running.

Your donations through ongoing fundraising efforts like Cow Scrabble and the Spring Fundraising Drive will be used for current operations and to ensure a seamless transition of library services until tax funds come in.

Many patrons, donors, and volunteers have contacted us with questions about the new district. Questions like, “How much will a library card cost if I’m not in the district?” and “How can I join the district?” have been flooding in. The newly elected library district board will make all of these decisions over the next six months. For now, services will not change as JCLI continues to operate the library system.

Please check the frequently asked questions or call the library to for more details.

Most importantly, with the promise of more hours and better materials, the new library district will still need volunteers as much, if not more than we currently have. If you’d like to volunteer, please contact our volunteer coordinator at the Grants Pass branch during open hours.

Our community’s generous support has been so critical to Josephine Community Libraries as we struggled to provide adequate library services for the past 10 years. We cannot thank you enough.

With your help, we pledge to continue our work of putting the community back in the library.

Anyone interested in getting involved with the library can send an email. Those interested in donating can send a check or money order payable to “Josephine Community Libraries” to P.O. Box 1684, Grants Pass, OR 97528 or make a secure online donation.

Kate 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 Public Library Division Board of Directors and the Legislative and Development Committee. She is also a board member for Oregon Humanities. In 2015, she was honored by the Oregon Library Association with the Olé award which annually recognizes an Oregon public library employee who has displayed exceptional effort and excellence.