Anti tax fervor closed their libraries, and now they are trying to get them back. 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 won. Or tried to.
Anti tax fervor closed their libraries but 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 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 country, 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. 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, and 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.
“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 Among a core group of women who led the effort three have withdrawn because of illness, advancing age or fatigue.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.