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Volunteers Keep Josephine County Libraries Open


Josephine County libraries closed down in 2007 for lack of government funding. Almost immediately the Grants Pass Courier challenged the community to respond, and within two years, a private, nonprofit corporation had reopened all four county libraries.

Today, the corporation, Josephine Community Libraries, struggles to maintain library services for the county’s 82,000 residents through the generosity of more than 2,000 donors, some 200 volunteers and hundreds of sponsoring businesses.

The corporation’s operating budget by 2013 had reached $660,047. The county government provides the four library buildings and the volunteers raise funds, operate the libraries and maintain and update the collection.

The county’s first library opened in 1886 in Stone’s Drugstore in Grants Pass. By 1958 the county funded a model library system, but lack of timber receipts in the 1980s led to hard times and short-term library closings. The county approved a special library tax levy in 1995, but state legislation rescinded it later. Voters turned down a first attempt to create a tax-raising library district in 2006.

Following voter rejection in 2014 of a second attempt to create a tax-raising district, the volunteer system faces hard times ahead.

Source: "Business Plan for 2012-2016." Josephine County Libraries. 19 Dec. 2013. Web. 14 May 2015.

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.