Douglas ESD proposes services, 'anchor-tenant' option as county considers library issue

Douglas County Library headquarters building in Roseburg. (File/SBG photo)

ROSEBURG, Ore. -- The Douglas ESD has offered a proposal to move into the Douglas County Library System’s Roseburg headquarters, which could allow the Roseburg library to remain open while the county and community look for long-term solutions.

Superintendent Michael Lasher presented a one-page proposal at a Friday community event on library options. The event was sponsored by the Oregon Community Foundation at the Danny Lang Event Center.

Lasher calls the proposal a “win-win” for the county and the ESD. Lasher said this “anchor-tenant model” offers a bridge to maintain some of the most important library services in Roseburg and support for city and town-operated branches, while providing the ESD a home. The ESD is currently considering relocation or renovation of its current 1871 NE Stephens St. office.

“Our board is supportive of Douglas ESD stepping forward to help preserve library services in Oregon …. We believe that Douglas ESD could play a significant role,” Lasher wrote in his proposal. “With nearly 200 employees in Douglas and Jackson counties, we have an organizational infrastructure and capacity that could serve as a base.”

The proposal aligns with the ESD’s available services and its overall mission, the district said. In addition to keeping doors open during ESD operational hours (M-F, 7:30a-4:30p), ESD services that could support library services include:

• business and fiscal agent

• grant writing and management

• professional and volunteer base organization

• IT and computer support

• courier van route that travels to 13 cities and towns several times a week.

“We’re not interested in single-handedly solving the funding for the library system, but we’d like to do our part,” Lasher said in a January video to ESD staff about this possibility. “We just want to be part of the solution to preserving libraries in Douglas County.”

The Douglas ESD provides cooperative services to 13 Douglas County school districts to support students within the region in four core services areas (information technology, instruction-curriculum and professional development, special education and administrative services). In addition, the Douglas ESD operates and administers a number of regional and statewide education programs.

Below is text from a letter by Douglas ESD Superintendent Michael Lasher dated Februay 10, 2017.

Library Services in Douglas County
The removal of library services from county budgets in 2017, followed by the recent failure of a ballot measure to create and fund a library district, puts Douglas County at a crossroads.
Some have described the library vote as the canary in the coal mine for the future of the county. Others have wondered whether the ballot failure will hamstring attempts at attracting new business to the area. “Who wants to invest in a place that can’t support a library?” is a refrain I’ve heard more than once.
These are important questions. Here’s another one we’re asking at Douglas Education Service District: To what extent will the closure of county libraries damage the educational structure of our county? We know that libraries are more than a repository for books. We are particularly concerned with the loss of children’s literacy initiatives and parent-children reading groups. The library has developed outreach programs for young readers from Head Start students to teens. In addition, tools and services are offered to help the children of parents who struggle with literacy themselves.
In a recent speech before the Oregon School Boards Association, Pedro Noguera, the child of immigrant parents and now a distinguished professor of Education at UCLA, said: “My father learned that in this country a free education could be had for all with a library card. My father sent all six of his children to college; we learned the love of learning in libraries.”
ESDs have a broad mission in Oregon. We provide services to children and school districts cooperatively, particularly in special education, instruction and information technology. We also furnish a variety of administrative services. Our board is supportive of Douglas ESD stepping forward to help preserve library services in Oregon. Clearly, we cannot reduce the direct services and support we provide to our 13 school districts in Douglas County. However, we believe that Douglas ESD could play a significant role. With nearly 200 employees in Douglas and Jackson counties, we have an organizational infrastructure and capacity that could serve as a base.
To use a model from business, we believe Douglas ESD could serve as an anchor-tenant that could provide the basis for operational support of a library in Roseburg, as well as a hub for other libraries supported by towns and cities in Douglas County. We already provide business, courier and other educational services as described above to our constituent school districts. If the ESD were to move to the library building in Roseburg, we could:
-- Keep the building open at least during our hours of operation
--Organize a professional and volunteer base needed to operate the library during those hours and perhaps beyond
-- Become the fiscal agent that seeks outside funding from foundations and other public entities to operate a revitalized library system
This work will not be easy and the ESD cannot do it alone. But we are willing to dedicate resources, time and resolve to maintain some semblance of library services in the short term. We also are willing to work with others to find a long-term solution that will preserve and expand the role of libraries, as many other communities around the country have done.
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