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 belong to the Douglas County Library System. Since the Douglas County Library System no longer exists, the books currently belong to the Douglas County government. This means that most of the books held in the local libraries (there are a few books which have been specifically donated to and designated for local libraries) are not owned by the libraries currently in possession of those books.

Since the County Board of Commissioners has opted out of the library business, there is an issue of ownership that needs to be legally resolved. For this reason, the Douglas County Library Foundation has not purchased any new books this year and cannot do so until the issue of ownership has been resolved.

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 nine libraries that have been re-opened using volunteers are now operating as completely independent entities. They can check out books to their customers, but there is no method extant that allows the transfer of any books between libraries, and there is no currently operating catalog system to track the books or allow for their exchange with other branches.

To this end, the Library Futures Task Force was put together by commissioner Gary Lief to try to cope with the realities of a now all volunteer library system. This group consisted of representatives from each of the libraries and from members (both pro and con) of the citizenry. Their purpose was to define the ongoing methodology for the continuation of the libraries in Douglas County. They were not put together to manage the libraries. The LFTF decided that it would be desirable to create an entity that would assume management of a county-wide system and begin to re-establish some form of county-wide system. Their end result was the formation of the Douglas Community Library Association (DCLA) and the LFTF has now been dissolved.

The 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. The DCLA is going to assume ownership of the books in the system and 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. The DCLF has pledged $18,000 toward that effort, which is part of the DCLF’s role in providing books and materials for the library system.

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.

As I write this (December 28, 2017), the DCLA is less than one month old. They still have not fully fleshed out their by-laws nor have the fully fleshed out their membership which is supposed to be at least one representative from each of the library branches or the cities (wherein the city owns the library), so it is false to claim that the DCLA misrepresents the libraries in question or that it hides anything from public view.

One of the first tasks of the DCLA is 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. It has been suggested that the City of Roseburg will do so as a part of accepting ownership of the library building from the county and re-opening the Roseburg library, but this has not been clearly established at this date.

In order for a library or a library system to be fully qualified as a library by state law, a full-time professional librarian must serve at the head of the library or the library system. At present, there is no librarian available, nor are the funds to pay for the services of that person. This is yet another issue that must be resolved in order for the library system to be re-established.

In other words, the entire county-wide library system is in a state of flux. There are no proposals currently put forth to establish a tax or other means of funding the library. Because of the outstanding questions regarding ownership of the book inventory, the DCLF has suspended purchase of books; after all, for whom are these purchases being made?

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.