From the News-Review, Tuesday, June 18, 2019:

I include this article because Bob Heilman is not only a local author, but he is an active member of the Douglas County Library Foundation and he works to keep the Myrtle Creek Library alive and functioning.

Local author Robert Heilman receives honorary degree from Umpqua Community College

WINCHESTER — Dressed in a green cap and gown, Robert Heilman sat with the graduating class of 2019 during Friday’s commencement ceremony at Umpqua Community College.

The Myrtle Creek author and former timber worker was selected by the college’s board of education to receive an honorary associate degree.

“I’ve actually spent more time present (in classes) than attending,” Heilman said in a press release. “I took a writing class at UCC in 1981. I decided it wasn’t going to help, so I left and went back to writing.”

After the ceremony, Heilman’s friends gathered at McMenamins Roseburg Station Pub to “toast and roast” the honorary graduate.

“The fact that he got that award was wonderful,” Heilman’s friend Bob Allen said. “It was good to see Bob Heilman, who’s always in coveralls and a baseball cap, looking spiffy out there in his bright green gown.”

Allen read out a proclamation for Heilman and gifted it to the graduate. Heilman also received a number of other gifts from his friends, including a dossier of Bob cartoons and a New Yorker front page with Heilman’s image edited in.

Heilman has been making his way back to the college since the mid-1990s when he became a guest speaker at many of the school’s writing courses.

His writing career started in the late 1970s when an injury forced him to stay home to raise his young son.

“I became a stay-at-home dad while my wife worked,” Heilman said.

He has written three books. His first, “Overstory: Zero,” is about real life in timber country. His second, “The World Pool,” is a collection of essays, and the third book, “Children of Death,” covers the migration of his family through Eastern Europe and North Dakota.

“I have been a blue-collar worker or manual laborer my entire life,” Heilman said. “Education is a byproduct of process and a degree is not a measure of competence. We are all self-educated and I study people all of the time.”

Honorary degrees are awarded to recognize people whose lives serve as examples of the college’s aspirations for its students and whose services have benefited the college.

Heilman said it was a flattering and unexpected gesture.
Sanne Godfrey is the education reporter for The News-Review

From the News-Review, Friday, January 11, 2019:

Officially open for business

Roseburg Public Library holds grand opening after a soft opening on Dec. 27

The News-Review

People can typically hear a pin drop at the new Roseburg Public Library. But not on Thursday night.

The grand opening of the library was a celebration. It also served to acknowledge people who helped bring back the library after more than a year and a half since voters elected to defund the county library system. The Roseburg library is one of several libraries in Douglas County, including those in Drain, Sutherlin and Riddle, that have reopened since 2017.

At the grand opening in Roseburg, city officials and library partners gave speeches to more than a hundred people who clapped and cheered for a ribbon-cutting ceremony. The library also unveiled the new Mildred Whipple Children’s Room, which features stacks of children’s books, giant Legos and ceiling-high, wooden bookshelves shaped like trees.

Soon after kids flooded into the children’s room, they were drawn back out for a performance by ventriloquist Steve Chaney. People scanned the stacks and chatted while the Jo Lane Middle School Jazz Band played jazz classics such as “In The Mood.”

“It’s incredible,” said Library Director Kris Wiley. “People are having so much fun.”

Wiley admitted she was nervous leading up to the grand opening, however. She was presented with a bouquet of flowers before the ribbon cutting.

The library has been open 10 days since its soft opening on Dec. 27. Since then, more than 3,500 items have been checked out and 1,249 people have signed up for a new library card, according to library staff.

People were signing up for library cards continuously during the grand opening. The line outside the teen room went out the door at times.

Cards are available for free to Roseburg residents and students in the district. People who live outside the city pay a $60 annual fee for membership.

A storage pod full of the old library’s collection couldn’t be maintained in the new collection, according to Marcy Belzner, a volunteer with Friends of the Library. A daily book sale for the books from the old collection has received between $200 and $300 each day, Belzner said. Books cost 25 and 50 cents at the book sale.

City Manager Lance Colley, who played an integral role in reopening the library, said during his speech that it wasn’t easy and that people didn’t know how they could make it happen at times.

John Moriarty, with the Oregon Community Foundation — one of the library’s donors — said reopening the library couldn’t have been possible without community philanthropy. He thanked the Douglas Education Service District, which is now a library partner and has offices in the library building, the Crane Creek Family Fund, the Olsrud Family Fund, the McDermott Fund and the Whipple Foundation Fund, which also helped reopen the Mildred Whipple Library in Drain.

The motivation to reopen the library came from the community’s children, Colley said. When the city was first considering how to reopen the library, Colley said he and other community members visited Melrose Elementary students. The students made it clear that the library was important to them.

“It’s pretty inspirational when kids in our community say, ‘We need a library,’” Colley said. “Not, ‘We want a library.’ ‘We need a library.’”

From the News-Review, Tuesday, Dec. 11, 2018:

BOOKS still on HOLD

Roseburg library, closed for the past 19 months, is still not quite ready to open

by DAN BAIN The News-Review

The wait to use the Roseburg Public Library will be a little longer.

Officials announced they hoped to have a soft opening this week, but the remodeling of the building hasn’t been completed. It is now looking like it will be January before the facility opens to the public.

The library will be run by the City of Roseburg, which will share space with the Douglas Education Service District.

The library staff moved into its remodeled offices in the building last week, and about 50 district employees are getting ready to move in from their offices on Northeast Stephens Street this week.

“We’re going to be moving next Wednesday,” Superintendent Michael Lasher said. “The folks that work in K-12 … are the ones that are coming to the library.”

The employees in pre-kindergarten who are working in Early Intervention, Early Childhood Special Education, Parenting Hubs and Early Learning Hubs will stay at the Northeast Stephens Street location. The district print shop will also remain in that location.

Plans call for that building to be an Early Childhood Resource Center.

The remodeling of the library office area is nearly complete, Lasher said, and the employees will bring their chairs, computers, telephones and other supplies this week.

Lasher said two new training rooms have been created between the city and the district to give them other rooms that will be available to the community for meetings and training. One room will have a capacity of 62, and the other can handle 80 people.

The rooms are a little smaller than the Ford Community Room, another conference room in the library that has gotten plenty of use over the years.

The City of Roseburg owns the 39,000-square-foot building, and the district has a 99-year lease on its 14,000 square feet.

The two will share maintenance costs.

“I think it’s a great partnership with the city that’s been just wonderful to work with, and both sides are really committed to making the library work,” Lasher said.

Close to 70 volunteers have been helping get books on the shelves and ready for the doors to finally open to the public.

The grand opening for the library is scheduled for Jan. 10, and library officials still hope to have a soft opening sometime before that.

Plans call for the library to be open 30 hours per week and closed Sundays and Mondays. It will be open from 1 to 8 p.m. Tuesdays and Thursdays, from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Wednesdays and Fridays, and from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Saturdays.

If the library opens it will bring an end to a 19-month closure for the facility, which was previously owned and operated by Douglas County along with the 11 branches around the county.

News-Review reporter Dan Bain can be reached at 541-957-4221 or e-mail at dbain@nrtoday. com

From the News-Review, Wednesday, November 21, 2018

Road to reading

Douglas County Library plans a soft opening before end of the year

by MAX EGENER The News-Review

The Roseburg Public Library will be open prior to its scheduled grand opening on Jan. 10, according to Library Director Kris Wiley.

She said the city’s new public library expects to have a soft opening before the end of the year. Once the renovations are finished and the library receives a certificate of occupancy from the city, the library will open with regular hours.

“There are pieces from an engineering standpoint and from a building safety standpoint that need to be in place, and they’re not yet,” Wiley said.

The Roseburg Library Commission finalized its recommendation for meeting room use fees at a meeting Tuesday night. It will present the recommendation to the Roseburg City Council on Monday. The library will feature two additional meeting rooms — one fitting 80 people and another fitting 60 — making five total meeting rooms.

If the fees are accepted by city council, it will cost $25 for groups such as book clubs to reserve one of the library’s five meeting spaces. The Ford Family Room will cost $50 to reserve when the library is closed, because it has an entrance that can be accessed after normal library hours. The fees will contribute to the cost of cleaning and maintaining the meeting rooms.

Groups affiliated with the library — the City of Roseburg, the Douglas County Education Service District and Friends of the Library — will not be charged to reserve a meeting room. They will also be prioritized if a scheduling conflict arises for a room. Veterans organizations also will not be charged to reserve a room.

At Tuesday night’s meeting, Library Commissioner Laura Harvey asked if groups that previously used meeting rooms for free when the library was part of the county system would now be charged.

“I’m trying to think about the exclusionary nature of not using those work rooms without paying,” Harvey said. She wanted to know whether groups would need to reserve and pay for the room even if it was not being used at the time.

Wiley said while groups would need to pay for the rooms, the library would be able to create meeting areas within the general space of the library for groups that don’t qualify to use the rooms for free but have an educational mission.

“Our goal is not necessarily to raise money with this,” City Manager Lance Colley said. “It’s to cover the cost of outside organizations utilizing something that will be an additional cost.”

The commission also discussed the possibility of setting up a donation system to provide library cards for free to people who are not students and don’t live in the city. A library card would cost $60 per year for non-students
and non-residents.

Wiley said the city may let people who qualify for the federal Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program receive library cards for free using donated funds.

“We’ll bring that back to you,” Wiley said to the commission about the free library card possibility. “I do want to talk to the (Friends of the Library) about that too.”

When the library opens, regular hours will be 1 to 8 p.m. Tuesdays and Thursdays, 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Wednesdays and Fridays and 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturdays.

Max Egener can be reached at megener@ and 541-9574217. Or follow him on Twitter @maxegener.

From the Smithsonian magazine:

Growing Up Surrounded by Books Could Have Powerful, Lasting Effect on the Mind

A new study suggests that exposure to large home libraries may have a long-term impact on proficiency in three key areas

By Brigit Katz
OCTOBER 12, 2018

Research has already suggested that opening a book may help improve brain function, reduce stress, and even make us more empathetic. Now, a team led by Joanna Sikora of the Australian National University is looking into the benefits of growing up around a book-filled environment; as Alison Flood of the Guardian reports, the researchers’ expansive new study suggests that homes with ample libraries can arm children with skills that persist into adulthood.

The study, published recently in Social Science Research, assessed data from 160,000 adults from 31 countries, including the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom, Australia, Turkey, Japan and Chile. Participants filled out surveys with the Programme for the International Assessment of Competencies, which measures proficiency in three categories: literacy, numeracy (using mathematical concepts in everyday life) and information communication technology, (using digital technology to communicate with other people, and to gather and analyze information).

Respondents, who ranged in age from 25 to 65, were asked to estimate how many books were in their house when they were 16 years old. The research team was interested in this question because home library size can be a good indicator of what the study authors term “book-oriented socialization.” Participants were able to select from a given range of books that included everything from “10 or less” to “more than 500.”

The surveys, which were taken between 2011 and 2015, showed that the average number of books in participants’ childhood homes was 115, but that number varied widely from country to country. The average library size in Norway was 212 books, for instance; in Turkey, it was 27. Across the board, however, it seemed that more books in the home was linked to higher proficiency in the areas tested by the survey.

The effects were most marked when it came to literacy. Growing up with few books in the home resulted in below average literacy levels. Being surrounded by 80 books boosted the levels to average, and literacy continued to improve until libraries reached about 350 books, at which point the literacy rates leveled off. The researchers observed similar trends when it came to numeracy; the effects were not as pronounced with information communication technology tests, but skills did improve with increased numbers of books.

So, what are the implications of the new study? Take, for instance, adults who grew up with hardly any books in the home, but went on to obtain a university degree in comparison to an adult who grew up with a large home library, but only had nine years of schooling. The study found that both of their literacy levels were roughly average. “So, literacy-wise, bookish adolescence makes up for a good deal of educational advantage,” the study authors write.

Further research is needed to determine precisely why exposure to books in childhood fosters valuable skills later in life, but the study offers further evidence to suggest that reading has a powerful effect on the mind. And so home library size might be important because, as the researchers note, “[c]hildren emulate parents who read.”

From the New York Times:

Anti-Tax Fervor Closed Their Libraries. Now Residents Are Trying to Go It Alone.

By Kirk Johnson, Oct. 17, 2018

DRAIN, Ore. — All the county libraries closed in this wooded corner of Oregon when the money ran out. But believers in the power of books rejected that fate, and in town after town they jumped back into the book-lending business on their own. Or tried to.

The tiny library in Drain, population 1,000, scheduled a grand reopening party this fall after more than 18 months of darkness, but party planners had a problem as the date loomed: The library didn’t own any books. Fifty miles away, Reedsport’s librarians couldn’t get access to the old list of library card holders, so they may have to build a new system from scratch. And in the city of Roseburg, a new library is preparing to open with no plans to share materials with other libraries around the county, breaking a tradition of sharing that goes back generations.

“It’s every library for themselves, and you don’t know where it’s going to lead,” said Robert Leo Heilman, a volunteer at the town library in Myrtle Creek.

The long, steep decline of the timber industry in southwest Oregon starting in the 1990s brought lean times to local governments. Then came newcomers and retirees, who were just fine with that. Low taxes and skepticism about government became part of the culture, and in Douglas County, a majority of voters in 2016 rejected a modest property tax increase to keep the 11 county libraries alive.

But anti-tax sentiment has turned out to be a patchwork in this county, which is about the size of Connecticut, with just over 100,000 residents. In recent months, some communities voted to pay to reopen or support a town library, while others insisted that volunteers alone would suffice. The result has been more tumult: A split between rural parts of the county, which mostly rejected higher taxes, and urban parts; an us-versus-them battle over who now gets to borrow library books; and general chaos, as people try to figure out the mechanics of running an institution that had long been the purview of local government.

Douglas County, deeply Republican in a Democrat-leaning state, has the fourth lowest property taxes in Oregon, according to state figures, and a county library tax would have added about $6 a month for someone with a median priced home. There are also pockets of rural poverty in towns like Glendale, population 800, where a branch library was kept afloat in the old days by a countywide sharing of resources. But ever since voters rejected the library tax and the libraries were shuttered in early 2017, homemade efforts to reopen them have cropped up.

“It’s keeping me awake nights,” said Betsie Aman, a substitute teacher and volunteer at the library in Glendale, which reopened for 12 hours a week as a nonprofit corporation with an all-volunteer staff. Among a core group of women who led the effort, three have withdrawn because of illness, advancing age or fatigue. “We’re getting kind of burned out,” Ms. Aman said.

Legal and logistical issues have made the struggle harder. Douglas County retained everything in the stacks, from books to videos, making it difficult for local groups to take legal possession. Some of the small groups are hashing through questions they never needed to think about before: grant applications, training, even rules about family leave and retirement.

The Roseburg library is reopening this year in a smaller space carved out of its original building.CreditAmanda Lucier for The New York Times
“You don’t often get a chance to build something from scratch,” said Kris Wiley, the library director in Roseburg, who arrived in Oregon three months ago and will head a staff of three paid employees and the more than 50 volunteers she says will be needed.

Roseburg’s City Council used money from the city’s general fund to help restart the library. In two other small communities, local versions of the county library tax that failed in late 2016 were put on the ballot this year and passed by residents, creating new public money for reopening libraries.

In Drain, the tax increase was exactly the amount that county voters had rejected, and it won 76 percent of town voters in an election in May. After a long negotiation with the county, the library in late September finally got ownership of the books that were already inside; the reopening party is scheduled for early November.

Sandi Malchow, a restaurant owner, had not voted in the countywide vote the first time around. “The second time, I definitely did, and I voted yes,” said Ms. Malchow, who said she was struck by the effect she saw on children and teenagers in town, who had used the library as an after-school hangout, especially on dark, rainy winter days.

Not everyone will now have free access to the libraries, however.

Roseburg, for example, the county seat and home of the former central library, will charge $60 a year for a library card to anyone living outside city limits. (Students in school in the city will get free privileges no matter where they live.)

“Our first obligation at this time is to the citizens of Roseburg who are funding the operations,” said Ms. Wiley, 46, who was recruited from Minnesota, where she ran a local library.

Roseburg’s city manager, C. Lance Colley, said the City Council saw that voters in the city favored the library tax, and voted to appropriate money to reopen a new library on that basis. The new fees on rural residents who rejected the tax is a simple statement of democracy, he said.

“People in Roseburg still want a library and were willing to pay for it,” Mr. Colley said.

New boundary lines for sharing books between libraries are also stirring resentment. Small libraries will no longer have access to Roseburg’s bigger collection.

“So much of what was in that building was provided by the entire county,” said Valarie Johns, a board member of the Drain special library district, about 25 miles north of Roseburg. “There’s a lot of anger about that.”

The demise and rebirth of the libraries is a continuing story — as well as a powerful motivator, Ms. Johns said.

“When they were closed, it was easier to get people on board saying, ‘We’ve got to have them back,’” she said. A sign on Drain’s soon-to-reopen library bore a simple message the other day: “Thanks voters.”

From the News-Review, Thursday, May 17, 2018

The Douglas County Library Foundation has approved $20,732 in grants. The money will go to eight of Douglas County’s public libraries, and to the Douglas Community Library Association.

Libraries in Glendale, Myrtle Creek, Winston, Sutherlin and Yoncalla will collectively receive $10,460 for their summer reading programs for children, library foundation member Bob Heilman said Tuesday.

Other grants will help boost technology at three local libraries. Those include $1,672 for Canyonville Library computers, $1,000 for new equipment at the Glendale Library, and $2,600 for website development at the Sutherlin Library, Heilman said.

The Douglas Community Library Association, which provides services to most of the county’s libraries, will receive $5,000 to pay for e-book downloads.

A grant request from the Reedsport Library had been tabled until next month’s library foundation meeting, pending the outcome of the election on the library district there. Voters approved the district May 15.

Libraries in Drain and Roseburg received no grants since neither city has reopened its library. The city of Roseburg plans to reopen its library following renovations, and recently appointed a library commission. Drain voters Tuesday approved formation of a library district.

Heilman said the library foundation will offer more grants this autumn.

The Douglas County Library Foundation is a non-profit charitable organization that provides support for all of Douglas County’s libraries. It was created in 1982 to raise money to build the former Douglas County Library System’s Roseburg branch on Diamond Lake Boulevard.

Worth mentioning

Community members are talking about the Douglas County Library System and the Douglas County Library Foundation’s education campaign. They are discussing the impact of the loss of timber dollars on local services, as well as the fact that Libraries Matter.

Read, watch and listen to what The News-Review, local librarians and your neighbors are saying about our libraries and our community.

Current Status

The Douglas County Library Foundation was founded in 1981 with an endowment of two million dollars. The purpose of that endowment was to be used to earn sufficient annual funds to provide books and materials to the Douglas County Library System. For more than three and a half decades the DCLF has done exactly that. Nearly every book you check out from your local library was purchased with those earnings supplemented by annual donations from interested members of the community. In addition, Summer reading programs and materials have also been provided using DCLF funding.

The DCLF has done this without maintaining any ownership in the process. The books have belonged to the Douglas County Library System. Since the Douglas County Library System no longer exists, the books have been bequeathed to the library in which they currently reside.

In the meantime, however, the Foundation has altered its by-laws to support libraries in the county in whatever way is deemed necessary. The DCLF has given monies to the branches in support of the Summer reading programs and has donated to the cause of re-establishing some semblance of a county-wide system.

The eleven libraries that have been re-opened using volunteers are now operating as completely independent entities.

The Douglas Community Library Association (DCLA) has been formed. It consists of representatives from each of the libraries or the cities involved. It is not currently interested in pursuing tax initiatives, although two cities (Reedsport and Drain) have created local initiatives in support of their libraries. Both of these tax measures have been passed.  The books are now owned by the library or entity holding (in some cases this is a city government) per agreements made with the county government.  DCLA will provide a county-wide digital cataloging system for all of the branches. However, the computer cataloging system will cost about $30,000 per year.

Incidentally, literally no one in either the DCLF or the DCLA receives any salary or other remuneration. We are all volunteers and we always have been. Each member of the DCLF serves a three-year term and can serve for a maximum of six years. Every year a search is made to replace retiring members of the board. We welcome volunteers to the task.

The membership of the DCLA consists of one representative from each of the library branches or the cities (wherein the city owns the library) and one representative from the county at large and one representative from the DCLF, so it is false to claim that the DCLA misrepresents the libraries in question or that it hides anything from public view.  Meetings are held in the Winston Community Center at 1:15pm on the second Tuesday of every month and the public is welcome to sit in.

One of the first tasks of the DCLA was to re-establish some sort of county-wide relationship among the various library branches. This have undertaken to initiate this process by establishing a computer-based catalog system that will encompass all of the books in the county. Some branches have already paid for this service locally, but the provider of the system has declared that those libraries will be reimbursed for the costs they have already paid once the county-wide system is up and operating. There are still issues regarding who will pay for the annual maintenance cost of this system or who will pay the computer programmer/operator who will maintain the system. The City of Roseburg now owns their library they have re-opened officially on January 10, 2109.  The role of the Roseburg library as regards the county-wide system has not yet been determined, but the Roseburg librarian has been attending DCLA meetings and observes the decisions made.  She is bound by her employment by the City of Roseburg and will do whatever the city agrees to do

In other words, the entire county-wide library system remains in a state of flux, but there are signs of coming together.  For instance, the Educational Services Division will be sharing the library building with the Roseburg city library, and they are providing transportation of books between libraries, making our county-wide system more than just a dream.

In addition, the DCLA is now providing an electronic book library.  To register, go to

In short, there is far more to having a library than simply opening the doors using volunteers. Naysayers notwithstanding, the process continues step by step, and it will be done with or without a tax base.