Saturday, June 17, 2006

I Can’t Imagine Life Without My Library

Today I made my first Friday library run since the library opened in its new temporary location after a three week hiatus to make the move. I can’t believe those three weeks are over already. I can’t believe I survived them. I did get to stop in briefly on Monday afternoon on the way to Grandma’s house but I couldn’t stay long to explore as my mother-in-law was waiting in the car for me. I grabbed three books and two movies for myself and five books for my husband. I like to keep my due-dates on Friday so I didn’t want to check out very many but nor could I stand to wait until Friday which would have put four full weeks between library visits. Today was my 195th visit to a Jackson County Library since we moved back here in August of 2001. I know this because I number my receipts. Today I came home with my rolling backpack stuffed to the gills with books and DVDs.

The temp building, which is one of the older buildings in this blink-your-eyes-and-miss-it town on Oregon’s Hwy 99, is about one third the floor space of the old one. The wiring is so old that they can’t use their coffee maker once the computers have been turned on in the morning. They anticipate staying there for about a year while their new building is built.

The new building will be twice as big as the old one with all kinds of new features, including study rooms for students and WIFI internet access. The funding for this new building was finalized just before the tech bubble burst. It has taken them this long to find the location for the building. Now the fear is that once it is built the funds for keeping it staffed and stocked with new books are not going to be there by the time they open their doors next year. This is because Congress is about to vote to discontinue the timber money’s that have been supporting our county library system since the seventies. I don’t understand the ins and outs of this issue. But I’m about in a panic over it.

I’ve tried to research it but so much of what is written assumes you already know what they are talking about. ‘Timber moneys’ is a short hand term for something that is more formally known as the Oregon and California Funds. And they are something that was set up to compensate northern California and most of Oregon for the loss in potential taxes when large sections of forest were designated to be conserved from development or resource extraction. Every time I try to search online for info on this, all I find is recent articles in local papers that assume their reader’s already know the full backstory. Those links that promise to answer some of my questions are always to pay-per-view archives or personal websites that do not cite primary sources adequately enough for me to feel comfortable citing them.

This is a big issue and yet nobody is talking about it other than to just casually mention that the vote to discontinue the funds is set for sometime this fall and that it is assumed to be a done deal, no point in debating. The questions I have that I can’t find answers to are:

When was the original law passed that created these funds and what was it called? What were the arguments for and against back then? How many times has it been renewed and what were the arguments at those times? At whose instigation is it being discontinued now?

This is going to affect the rural communities of Oregon and Northern California quite drastically. It isn’t only libraries that will lose funds. Among the things various communities use the funds for are: sheriff’s departments, drug rehab, and domestic violence shelters.

I can’t imagine life without my library.

1 tell me a story:

Anonymous,  6/17/2006 7:45 PM  

If you go to this website, you can see the property tax rates ("permanent rate") that various counties in Oregon are levying. Jackson County residents pay a pretty low rate of only about $2 per $1,000 of assessed valuation.

This is because they have also had the "O&C funds" from the Federal government in the past to supplement the county budget. Where I live in Marion County the county tax rate is about $3 per thousand, and in Multnomah County, the rate is over $4. Should Jackson County citizens continue to have low county taxes and should the Federal government provide what amounts to a handout so that you don't have to raise your taxes? Good question.

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