Library Futures Task Force explores options for future

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(From the News Review,  by )

“The Sage Library System could offer Douglas County libraries a catalog system as well as courier service to share 1.7 million books with other Oregon libraries. Sage is a consortium with 77 member libraries in 15 Eastern Oregon counties.

Beth Longwell, systems manager for Sage, told the Douglas County Library Futures Task Force Friday that the cost for all Douglas County branches to join the system would be about $40,000 a year. Sage wouldn’t be involved in staffing or operations of the libraries themselves.

Joining Sage is one of many possibilities the task force is looking into as it ponders possible long-term solutions to restore a countywide library system. The county government, struggling with the loss of federal timber money, has announced it will pull funding for the library system at the end of this fiscal year. Most smaller library branches are already closed, and the Roseburg branch is slated to close at the end of this month.

Task Force member Bob Bell said if Douglas County’s libraries join Sage, this would be the first county along Interstate 5 in the consortium. He wondered if joining might convince library systems in other Western Oregon counties, such as Josephine County, to join. The nearest Sage member county is Klamath County.

Jim Williams, the head of the task force’s funding subcommittee, reported that its members worked out a projected budget for running the countywide library hub. They separated the Roseburg library into two separate operations — the countywide hub that manages and keeps track of the overall collection, and the Roseburg branch operations. They came up with a $528,000 annual cost to run the countywide hub, including three employees earning $170,000 combined, including salary and benefits.

Roseburg City Councilor Brian Prawitz reported Roseburg is working on a business model for the city to fund and operate its own library, at least in the short-run.

Prawitz said he had hoped to keep the branch open seamlessly, as happened in communities like Sutherlin; however, he said it has become clear it’s going to take more time, and that the library won’t reopen June 1. He said the council directed city staff to come up with a plan to provide library service, and to decline a reading room model (in which the books could not be checked out.)

Prawitz said while he thinks the city can move faster toward a solution than the county, he doesn’t fault the task force for the length of time it has spent on the issue so far. Once the task force comes up with a countywide solution, the Roseburg library could rejoin the system, he said.

Prawitz said he’s optimistic a solution will be found, despite having taken “some hits from the doomsday prognosticators out there who say the county’s failing, the state is failing, we aren’t cutting trees, this isn’t going to work.”

“The goal is a forward-thinking, partner-based community hub library that is sustainable in the city of Roseburg,” he said.”

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