Frequently asked questions

Click one of the following to see the questions and answers about the Josephine Community Library District proposed in Measure 17-79 on the May 16, 2017 ballot.

What is a library special district?

1. What is a library special district?
A library special district is a municipal corporation—similar to a school district or our local Josephine County 4-H District. It’s an independent public entity—independent of county government. All library taxes will go only to the library for library services—not to county government. There are currently 26 library districts throughout Oregon.

2. What is the purpose of the proposed special library district for Josephine County?
It relieves Josephine County government from management responsibility, as it separates library funding from Josephine County. It’s a permanent solution to funding public libraries in Josephine County.

3. Why not run a levy instead of a library district?
A levy has to be administered by a local government entity, and that would put control of the library and your library dollars in the hands of county government. Instead, the Josephine Community Library District would be independent of county government.

Voters passed a library levy in 1995, but the funds were absorbed into the county’s general fund. Library proponents want to be sure this never happens again, and that taxes approved by voters specifically for libraries are always used only for libraries. A library district ensures that all the taxes collected go to the library district and are administered by the library district board rather than the county commissioners.

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What are the boundaries of the proposed library district?

4. Will the library district serve all of Josephine County?
No. Library district proponents made two previous attempts to pass a library district that serves all residents of Josephine County, and they did not pass. Therefore, this measure reflects the will of voters and proposes to form a smaller, noncontiguous library district largely made up of just those voting precincts that surround one of the four public library branches in Grants Pass, Cave Junction, Williams, and Wolf Creek.

“Noncontiguous” is the legal description for a district that is not connected as a single land area, but instead consists of islands or separate areas that receive service.

5. What precincts will be served by the proposed library district?
The boundaries of the noncontiguous library district include all 12 precincts in the City of Grants Pass, as well as the precincts containing the City of Cave Junction. It also includes the precincts of Kerby, Williams, Wolf Creek, and Grave Creek. This totals 17 of the 47 precincts in Josephine County. See the map of the proposed district.

Specifically, the following precincts are within the district boundaries:

  • Precinct #1. Highland
  • Precinct #2. Greenwood South
  • Precinct #3. Lincoln
  • Precinct #4. Central
  • Precinct #5. Riverside
  • Precinct #6. Webster
  • Precinct #7. Greenwood
  • Precinct #8. Riverside South
  • Precinct #9. Scoville
  • Precinct #10. Robertson
  • Precinct #11. Beacon
  • Precinct #20. Grave Creek
  • Precinct #27. Wolf Creek
  • Precinct #28. Kerby
  • Precinct #30. Cave Junction
  • Precinct #40. Williams
  • Precinct #47. Crestview

Only the 27,673 voters who live in these 17 precincts will be eligible to vote on this library district measure.

6. How can I find out whether I live within the proposed library district boundaries?
Click to go to the Proposed Library District map. In the upper-left corner of the screen, type your property address and press Enter. The map zooms to show your address. If your address shows in one of the colored (blue, orange, purple, or green) blocks, you live within the proposed library district boundaries. If your address shows in a gray area, you live outside the boundaries. For more assistance, email info@keepourlibrariesopen.com.

7. I live outside the proposed library district, and I don’t believe we should have to pay more taxes.
We heard you. This measure reflects the will of voters, and therefore the library district boundaries include largely only those voting precincts that surround one of the four public library branches. You’re not in the boundary, so if this measure passes, your taxes will not be affected. 

8. Does drawing the library district this way amount to gerrymandering?
Absolutely not. “Gerrymandering” is redrawing a congressional district that provides a political benefit to a specific political party. Ours is a noncontiguous library district as allowed by ORS 198.720. Noncontiguous library districts exist in other areas of Oregon and the country, and is a way to provide library services. In our case, each noncontiguous area of the proposed district surrounds one of the branches of the public library system.

9. I live outside the proposed library district boundaries, but I need to use the library to check out books and other materials. What does this mean for me?
Those who live outside the library district boundaries will not pay taxes for the library district, and therefore are not eligible to receive a free library card. However, as with every other public library in Oregon, the library district board will make library cards available for an annual fee to those living outside the boundaries.

10. How much will a library card cost for those living outside the district?
This will be decided by the newly elected library district board. However, neighboring library districts tend to base its library card fees on what the average household would have paid in taxes if it had been part of the library district.

11. I live outside the proposed library district boundaries, and I can’t afford to buy a library card every year.
Anyone can visit and use any public library during open hours. You’ll be able to browse through the collection of books and other materials, read, connect to wireless Internet, and participate in programs. You just won’t be able to check out books or other materials.

12. Will any provision be made for children living outside the library district boundaries?
Because the noncontiguous library district boundaries creates an “unserved population,” it’s likely that the new library district board will initiate fundraising efforts—including grants—to be able to pay for free or reduced fee library cards for children living outside the library district.

13. Will library volunteers get free library cards even if they live outside the boundaries?
The new library district will need even more volunteers than ever, so volunteers will continue to be highly valued. Volunteers will have an opportunity to receive a library card in exchange for volunteering their time. Current library volunteers who live outside the district will be grandfathered in and eligible for a library card for the first year of the district.

14. Can a property be added to the district?
Yes. Any individual or group of property owners may fill out paperwork requesting that the Board of County Commissioners add their property to the library district. After a public hearing, the county commissioners vote on the request.

If the request is approved, the property owner’s tax lot(s) become part of the library district. The property does not need to be adjacent to an existing library district boundary.

The special district annexation process is governed by ORS 198.850 through 198.869.

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Why form a library district, especially now?

15. We already voted on the library district measure in November 2014. Why are you running this again?
This is a new and different proposal. The 2014 proposal included the entire county as the library district boundary. This new measure proposes a smaller, noncontiguous library district boundary which includes only those voting precincts that surround one of the four public library branches.

16. What improvements can I expect if the library district passes?
Increased hours (from 59.5 to 80 to 100 hours per week across the four library branches) to help meet the growing demand for library services.

  • More convenient hours, including weekends and evenings.
  • Enough money to buy new books to satisfy the ever-increasing requests for expanded and updated collections of books, DVDs, CDs, and digital library resources and services.
  • Staff to provide technical and research assistance, with volunteer support.

17. What will happen if the proposed library district does not pass?
Josephine Community Libraries will continue operating the libraries as a nonprofit organization with unstable funding and limited hours for the 84,475 residents of Josephine County, relying heavily on private donors and volunteers. This model severely limits the quality and quantity of services and resources that can be provided to our citizens.

18. I thought the library was doing fine. Why do we need this tax for a library district?
Without a library district, Josephine County residents will continue to have a library that does not meet public demand or Oregon public library standards in terms of hours, collection, programs, facilities, and professional staff.

Currently, the main library in Grants Pass is open only 24 hours per week. Residents come to the door every day during closed hours and are dismayed to find the doors locked. What’s more, the three rural branches are open only 12 to 16 hours per week. If this library district doesn’t pass, we won’t be able to add the hours the public is demanding, and we’ll continue to not meet public library standards.

And, even at the current low levels of service, the library expects to dip into reserves this year by a projected $93,000.

19. Why do we need to meet public library standards?
Important entities which serve the public—law enforcement, fire departments, education, accounting, legal, finance, construction, and more—all follow standards for a basic level of competency and conduct to ensure that citizens receive services that meet at least basic expectations. Libraries are no different, and standards include collection (books and materials), hours of operation, technology, facilities, and more. 

20. How do the libraries in Josephine County compare with the libraries in the rest of Oregon?
Unfortunately, Josephine County residents have one of the lowest levels of library service in the state of Oregon. According to every measure—operating expenditure per capita, staff expenditure per capita, number of staff per 1,000 population, library hours per 1,000 population, and circulation per capita—the libraries in Josephine County rank last. (Source: State of Oregon’s Public Libraries, May 2016.)

21. In these uncertain times, why should we establish a library district now?
Libraries are an essential service in a healthy, economically vital community. We have a responsibility to provide quality library services that meet the demand of our citizens while also meeting public library standards.

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Why are libraries needed?

22. Why are libraries still needed when everyone has the Internet?
According to recent Pew studies, about one-third of Americans have no access to the Internet. It’s probably a higher number in Josephine County—an estimated 12,000 households—because of the lack of Internet providers in the rural areas. However, everyone can access the public library. At the library, citizens receive personalized assistance and can participate in a variety of programs.

  • Our libraries leverage the power of the Internet to provide a wealth of authoritative digital resources and reliable references that are only available through subscriptions.
  • Our libraries also loan downloadable eBooks, offer wireless access, and provide Internet-connected computers for patrons to use, all free with a library card.
  • The Internet doesn’t provide other resources like physical books, DVDs, CDs, and more.
  • Public libraries put books in the hands of children and introduce them at an early age to the excitement of reading. Children learn to read by holding a book shared with an adult.
  • The library brings people together by providing classes, workshops, lectures, and meeting spaces.

23. Do people, especially adults, even use the library anymore?
Americans go to school, public, and academic libraries more than three times more often than they go to the movies, and there are more public libraries than McDonald’s restaurants in the U.S.—a total of 16,766 library branches nationwide.

  • Although our libraries in Josephine County have limited funding, staffing, and hours, the overwhelming popularity of our libraries shows us there’s a real hunger in our community for knowledge, culture, and new technology. People of all ages are using the libraries, and with their limited hours, they’re busy with long lines and overcrowded storytimes and other programs.
  • About 34,205 Josephine County residents—about 40 percent of the population of 84,745—hold library cards, and a monthly average of about 300 people sign up for new library cards.
  • An average of about 11,000 patrons use the library every month.
  • Library users check out a monthly average of 25,000 physical items.
  • The checkout of eBooks has been increasing by 5,000 items every year. The use of online resources and references have also increased by orders of magnitude.
  • An average of 6,539 patrons use the Internet computers at all four branches each month.
  • A monthly average of 4,548 patrons use the libraries’ high-speed wireless services with their own laptops and other devices.

24. Even if libraries are important, can we really afford them?
Can we afford not to have a library? Libraries improve quality of life, which makes a community attractive to businesses bringing in jobs and economic vitality and keeping property values high.

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How much will the library district cost?

25. How much will it cost?
The rate for the Josephine Community Library District will be 39 cents per $1,000 of assessed property value for owners within the boundaries of the library district. This rate means that the owner of a house assessed at $200,000 would pay $78 per year, or $6.50 per month.

If the library district measure is approved by voters, this tax will begin to be assessed starting July 2017.

26. What research was done to come up with the 39-cent rate?
Josephine Community Libraries commissioned a feasibility study in partnership with the Oregon State Library. After researching in the community, the consultants determined that 39 cents was a practical and affordable amount to fund a four-branch library system with hours and a book budget that can meet public demand. Click to read the feasibility study (pdf, 591kb), including the research, budget statements, and boundary map.

27. How does this 39-cent rate compare with other library districts in Oregon?
This would be one of the lowest rates in the state. Four other districts have rates at 25 and 29 cents, and one other district is at 37 cents. Hood River County also has a 39-cent rate, but it has one-third the population of Josephine County.

Neighboring counties with library districts include Jackson, Curry and Coos. Curry County has five independent library districts in different communities, operating at 66 cents. Coos County has a countywide library district run by a combination of county and city governments, at 73 cents per $1,000 assessed value. Voters in Jackson County agreed to form a library district in May 2014 at a 60-cent rate.

28. Who will run the library district?
Voters will elect five board members at the same time as they decide on forming a library district. This board will oversee library operations. The board members will receive no financial compensation for their service. In addition, an independent audit will be done each year to guarantee that the funds are used only for library operations.

29. How will funds collected for the library district be used?
All money will be used exclusively for essential services within our community library system. Such services include books, subscriptions, information technology, supplies, utilities, janitorial, repairs, and computers.

30. Will the County Commissioners be able to redirect the library district money?
No. The five elected district board members will be responsible for the district funds.

The elected board will have the authority to contract for services, apply for grants, initiate volunteer partnership programs, and administer library operations. The new district created by the passing of the measure would be an independent legal entity and none of the financial resources would be available to the county. This would be ensured by annual audits. The public funding for the library district would be similar to that for the school districts or fire districts in Josephine County.

31. What about the library buildings owned by Josephine County?
Nothing has been decided at this time. Currently, Josephine Community Libraries has a 10-year lease with Josephine County which runs through 2020. Beyond then, the newly elected library board and the county commissioners will need to develop a new memorandum of understanding regarding the use of the three buildings.

32. Will you still use volunteers in the library?
The projected district budget was built assuming the ongoing contribution of labor and expertise of the generous library volunteers, without whom Josephine County would currently have no library system whatsoever.

In the 2015-16 fiscal year, library volunteers worked 27,280 hours for an average of 2,273 hours monthly, equating to 13 full-time equivalent employees and saving operations $620,620 annually. This is based on the 2015 Oregon volunteer hourly valuation of $22.75 per hour (Independent Sector).

Under the proposed district budget, the same (or possibly a higher) level of library volunteer effort will be needed.

33. Will employees of the library district become part of the Public Employees Retirement System (PERS)?
No. While library districts in Oregon are eligible to have their employees on PERS, they are not required to do so. Other library districts in Oregon have opted to set up 403(b) retirement plans for their employees. After the district is formed, the new board will decide on the employee benefits program.

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How else might libraries be funded?

34. Why don’t you charge for library cards?
To be considered a “public library,” and thus be eligible for grants, state law prohibits the library charging a library card subscription or fee for users living within their boundaries.

Specifically, legally established public libraries are not allowed to charge for library cards by statute. Oregon Revised Statute (ORS) 357.001 requires that all public libraries services be free by stating: “Library services should be available widely throughout the state to bring within convenient reach of the people appropriate opportunities for reading, study and free inquiry.”

The proposed smaller, noncontiguous library district would be able to charge users living outside the district boundary for library cards.

35. What other sources of income does the library have?
Currently, the library’s annual operating budget comes from donations, grants, and fundraising.

36. The libraries look like they’re doing okay now with donations. Why change things?
The main library in Grants Pass is open only 24 hours per week. Residents come to the door every day during closed hours and are dismayed to find the doors locked. The rural libraries in Illinois Valley, Williams, and Wolf Creek are open only 12 to 16 hours per week.

At the same time, our libraries have increased usage at a rate of about 300 new cardholders each month, so demand is increasing. Donations cannot keep pace and cannot pay for more open hours to meet this demand. Even with the current levels of service, the library expects to dip into its cash reserves by $93,000 this year.

37. Why don’t you seek more grants and donations?
This library has probably secured more grants and private donations to meet operating expenses than any other library in southern Oregon. Local foundations have been extraordinarily generous with grants for books and other materials and for special programs. Today the problem is that both private and public grant providers have less to give and more organizations requesting help. Grant funders don’t want to provide money for basic services—they want to provide seed money for new and innovative projects.

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How can I help or get more information?

38. How can I learn more about the details of the proposed Josephine Community Library District?
Click to read the Josephine Community Library District Economic Feasibility Statement (pdf, 591kb).

If you don’t see your question here or want more details, email info@keepourlibrariesopen.com.

39. How can I help?
Volunteer for the campaign through Keep Our Libraries Open (KOLO). KOLO is a registered Oregon political action committee (ID #14922) made up of citizens dedicated to passing a library district measure in 2017.

  • Donate to the campaign. If you donate before the end of 2016, you can deduct up to $50 from your Oregon state taxes. Go to the Donate page for details.
  • If you are not currently a registered voter in Josephine County, register at the library or your local municipality. Then vote in the May 16, 2017 election.

Updated April 24, 2017

 

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