On Saturday morning we met board and staff of the Josephine Community Libraries, an organization that formed because the community needed to reopen four branches of the county library, after they had been closed for up to two years due to lack of funding.

Volunteer Grant Coordinator, Teresa Stover remembers piles of books stacked between the shelves, inside the darkened buildings. “The library isn’t a repository for books; it is a living, breathing space. The books live in people’s homes. These shelves are meant only as a temporary holding place between circulation.” Teresa said when she and I met with Illinois Valley Branch manager, Kate Dwyer.

At the IVY (Illinois Valley) Branch of the Josephine Community Libraries, VolunTEENs (the name given, organization wide, for teenage volunteers) write short blurbs promoting library picks for other teens.  “Books like Catcher in the Rye are extremely popular with the VolunTEENs.  Tell a teenager that a book is ‘banned’ and guess what? They’re going to want to read it.” says Kate Dwyer, smiling.

The Josephine Community Libraries received $12,000 this year from the Cultural Trust donations to revitalize, restore and update their collections. Grants Pass Branch Operations manager, Kris Gleisner showed me the DVD collection of 100 greatest films that will now be available for library patrons.

And Collection Development specialist, former Librarian at a large city library out east, Bonnie Johnson, shared a copy of a 1915 travel book by John Muir. “An artifact, for sure,” Bonnie said, “but not a useful book for a library patron looking to read about traveling to Alaska, today.”

“Every new non-fiction reference book that has been purchased with the Cultural Trust grant money is already off the shelves, in circulation,” shared Executive Director Kate Lasky. Josephine Community Libraries are filling the needs of the community.

As we sit around the large wooden table at the center of the main circulation room, the library officially opens for business. Twenty or so people immediately file in. “They’ve been lined up,” says former Board President, Doug Walker. “It’s like that every day.”

When one library patron walked in, Jennifer Roberts excused herself from the group around the table to go over and hug her. “She’s a loyal library member,” Jennifer said when she got back to the table.  “She’ll be tatting all year long and then sells her finished pieces at Christmas time, to get the money for her library membership.” The group around the times nods in recognition and we all smile.

It’s this kind of community support, that made it possible for Josephine Community Libraries to reopen, one by one, over a two year period of time. Kate Dwyer, who owns a catering business in the Illinois Valley of Josphine County, works 15 hours a week as the IVY Branch Manager.  She is thankful for her volunteer staff that check out books, restock and answer questions at the information desk. “And more volunteers are always needed.” says Kate.

At the Crab Feed in Cave Junction earlier that day, Kate sat at a IVY Branch table, sharing with passerbys that the library is open for business.  For many people in Illinois Valley the libraries closure two years ago was sudden and final.  Some residents still do not realize that their library is once again providing valuable service in their community. That afternoon, Kate signed up three new library members and issued six library cards.

When I left the Illinois Valley Branch, Kate directed me to take a library fortune cookie. Mine read: There are many ways to enlarge your child’s world. Love of books is the best of all. –Jacquline Kennedy.

Way to go Josephine Community Libraries!

To learn more about the Josephine Community Libraries and their work in updating their collections, and keeping the doors open for Josephine County residents, go to www.josephinelibary.org.


Photo of Board and Staff include (left to right, back row: Joanne Stumpf (Treasurer), Doug Walker (Former President), Sara Katz (Secretary), Bonnie  Johnson (Collection Development Specialist), Kate Lasky (Executive Director), Jennifer Roberts, and Teresa Stover (volunteer Grant Coordinator)