Visitors mourn loss of county library system during Roseburg location's final moments

After 64 years, the main location in Roseburg closed its doors, May 31, 2017. (SBG photo)

ROSEBURG, Ore. -- On April 1, 10 branches of the Douglas County Library System shut down. Three reopened and are run by volunteers.

After 64 years, the main location in Roseburg closed its doors Wednesday night.

The book drop will be open until June 15. After that date, borrowers with outstanding book loans will be fined.

The collapse of the library system comes after a long process of decreased funding from the county.

Then in November, the community voted against a tax to keep the libraries open.

Community members gathered at the Roseburg location Wednesday afternoon. They said they were remembering the good times but also mourning the loss as the doors closed for good.

"Until a couple days ago, these shelves were completely full and my children's books were here and this is where I would process them and sort them," said library volunteer Jackie Sutton during the library’s final moments. "I plan to be here all day just to say goodbye to a good friend."

Sutton's been a volunteer there since 1974.

"I spent 33 wonderful years in the children's department,” she recalled. “Those were just years of joy. I can just see those darling little youngsters running in."

On the last day of the Douglas County Library in Roseburg, she was sadder for the community's children than for herself.

"Some children maybe don't have an opportunity, maybe they don't have a play school or any other way to meet with other children, and to be introduced to books."

People there say it's been a long time coming considering money's tight, but when voters rejected a proposed taxing district to keep it open, it was the final straw.

"It's real simple,” said Douglas County Commissioner Gary Leif, “the county has run out of money."

Commissioner Leif said money isn't flowing like it used to from the timber industry.

"We used to pay over $20 million for programs like this because we had the money coming in from O&C (Oregon and California Railroad Revested Lands),” he explained. “Today we don't have that."

But volunteer Sutton is still hopeful.

"We'll get through it somehow,” she said, “but sometimes you don't really appreciate something until you've lost it, so we'll come back."

The library director is hopeful too.

"It is a loss not just for the library users but for the entire citizenry of Douglas County,” said library director Harold A. Hayes. “It's a resource that was there for everyone and a resource to the community for everyone and that is going away."

But the doors won't be opening again any time soon.

"It's too sad to say goodbye," Sutton said, so she’s saying "so long for now."

The books themselves belong to the county. Officials said they'll be dividing those up among the city libraries.

The 10 branches of the library system all closed on April 1, while the central location in Roseburg remained open until Wednesday.

Of the 10 that closed on April 1, three have reopened as volunteer-run libraries and one will reopen June 6. Volunteers said most of the remaining six are trying to reopen. All are using 100 percent volunteers.

Some people in the area are working to create a community book shelves initiative starting at Cascadian Coffee Company, and they're asking for donations to get that up and running.

Umpqua Community College has invited the public to learn more about the "community card" option for Douglas County residents.

Here’s a status update on the former city libraries in Douglas County, according to a library volunteer. Many are trying to continue operation as volunteer-run libraries.

Sutherlin – re-opened April 4 with all volunteers under the City of Sutherlin

Reedsport – re-opened with all volunteers

Drain – Not reopened

Yoncalla – In the process of trying to re-open with volunteers

Oakland – Open one day per week with volunteers

Winston – Not open, but having meetings

Myrtle Creek – Volunteers are trying to get it re-opened

Riddle – Will re-open on June 6

Canyonville – Not re-opened

Glendale – Not re-opened

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