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As It Was: Taxing District Keeps Josephine County Libraries Open

When lack of government funding forced Josephine County to close its public libraries in 2007, volunteers came to their rescue, forming a private, nonprofit corporation that within two years had reopened all four branch libraries.

It was a struggle for the next eight more years as more than 2,000 generous donors and 360 volunteers annually maintained library services at the county government’s four library buildings. The volunteers endured disappointment when two attempts to create a tax-raising library district failed, first in 2006 and again in 2014. Success finally came in 2017 when a ballot measure to create a Josephine County Community Library District to permanently fund the libraries won approval with 53 percent of the vote.

The community celebrated on Jan. 14, 2018, with a grand opening and ribbon cutting ceremony at the Grants Pass branch of the library district, where District Director Kate Laska thanked donors and volunteers for having kept the libraries open.

By June 2019, the district reported the library system had “successfully transitioned from a donor-funded nonprofit to a tax-supported government agency” and library usage had increased at three of the four branches.

Sources: "Business Plan for 2012-2016." Josephine County Libraries. 19 Dec. 2013. Web. 14 May 2015; "Community invited to library district grand opening." Josephine Community Library, Josephine Community Library District, 2020, josephinelibrary.org/about-the-library/news/community-invited-to-library-district-grand-opening/. Accessed 16 June 2020; “District Information." Ibid. josephinelibrary.org/about-the-library/. Accessed 16 June 2020; "Josephine Community Library Annual Report 2018-2019." Ibid. http://josephinelibrary.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/04/19-09-jcl_annualreport.pdf. Accessed 17 June 2020.

Kernan Turner is the Southern Oregon Historical Society’s volunteer editor and coordinator of the As It Was series broadcast daily by Jefferson Public Radio. A University of Oregon journalism graduate, Turner was a reporter for the Coos Bay World and managing editor of the Democrat-Herald in Albany before joining the Associated Press in Portland in 1967. Turner spent 35 years with the AP before retiring in Ashland.